Author: tucsonlifestyl

Fins to the Left … Fins to the Right

Despite being located in the desert, the Old Pueblo sports exemplary seafood in restaurants all over town.  Here is a tasty sampling of dishes at some popular spots.

Written by Kimberly Schmitz | Photography by Thomas Veneklasen

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill offers boldly flavored wood-fired steak and seafood in a warm, modestly refined space at La Encantada.  For an appetizer or an excellent accompaniment to a signature martini, dip a chip in the luscious lobster spinach queso, featuring ample lobster, baby spinach, tomatoes, and pepper jack cheese.  As a starter to share or a meal, seafood lovers will enjoy the seared tuna superfoods salad, with seared sushi-grade red tuna over spinach, organic ancient grains, cucumbers, avocado, grilled corn, edamame and radish, tossed with avocado green goddess dressing.  Another good choice is the wood-grilled salmon salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, San Saba Farms

spiced pecans and cilantro-lime vinaigrette.  Bounty of the sea fans also will surely enjoy Firebirds’

signature wood grilled salmon basted in Key lime butter, and fresh vegetables, or the delectable sesame-encrusted salmon served with ginger mustard aioli, and fried spinach.  Diners interested in more turf than surf may enhance any cut of beef on the menu with a half-pound lobster tail or wood-fired shrimp.  Chef Mario Soto presents a new feature menu every few months.  Be sure to ask about the hottest new items.  2985 E. Skyline Drive,577-0747 www.tucson.firebirdsrestaurants.com

This shabby chic hotspot offers up its regional specialties with unexpected twists — and the fish offerings are no exception.

Wood-grilled salmon basted with Key lim butter, from Firebirds Wood Fired Grill.

The Parish’s grilled ruby red trout.


The Parish

Being the only Southern fusion gastropub game in town doesn’t mean The Parish’s coowners Steve Dunn, Bryce Zeakler, and Chef Travis Peters rest on their laurels.  This shabby chic hotspot offers up its regional specialties with unexpected twists — and the fish offerings are no exception.  Whether you’re looking for a simple nosh with a drink or to kick off a full Southern comfort meal in style, the Crawfish Hushpuppies — “sweet and spicy orbs of deepfried perfection”— won’t disappoint.  Guests looking to ride the crustacean train to the last stop will find the Burgundy angel hair pasta with lobster broth-bathed shrimp and crawfish, in saffron red pepper cream sauce an excellent choice.  Also not to be missed is the best seller shrimp and grits made heavenly with Creole barbecue cream sauce, white cheddar grit cake, and served with a side of greens.  Diners seeking a fresh water swimmer will thoroughly enjoy the pecan smoked ruby red trout served with roasted garlic, red onion marmalade, candied pecans and Creole mustard.  Guests may choose to wash down these delicacies with a selection from more than 40 craft beers, an assortment of unique seasonal cocktails or house-infused vodka, rum, tequila, gin or bourbon.

6453 N. Oracle Road, 797-1233www.theparishtucson.com

 

Dante’s Fire

Executive Chef and Owner Ken Foy delivers a no-holds-barred menu born of his East Coast classical training and a passion for regional flavors and ingredients.  His working philosophy of “food made from food” barely offers a glimpse into the gastronomic delights served until the wee hours at Dante’s Fire.

Dip your toes in the Fire’s waters with oysters Rockefeller.  The tasty little mollusks take their final swim in a thick, soupy reduction of Pernod, rendered bacon and heavy cream with spinach and asiago cheese and are topped with candied bacon.  Channel your inner Dante and try tequila-cured salmon gravlax paired with sliced olives, avocado, grapefruit, and Parmesan foam.  The salmon — vacuum sealed with lime, cilantro and tequila — is a modern, Tucson-twist on a Norwegian specialty, also known as “salmon from the grave” because it is traditionally buried to cure.  Diners interested in something sourced closer to home should try the ruby red trout — a sustainable, farm-raised Apache trout replica, pan seared, broiled and properly dressed in pesto and topped with crab meat and asparagus tomato succotash.  Choose a locally crafted beer or find the perfectly paired cocktail for any of these creations on the Pride, Lust, Heresy or Fraud cocktail lists.

2526 E. Grant Road, 382-9255 www.dantesfireaz.com

Wild Garlic Grill

For diners interested in taking an open sea culinary cruise with garlic as the co-captain, Wild Garlic Grill is a solid port stop.  Tucson native Chef Steven Schultz and his wife Maudi Gourdin treat guests like family at the recently relocated Foothills restaurant.  Chef creates a menu with California French accent cuisine, conceived after years of training under French, German, Austrian, and Swiss executive chefs.  For starters, it will be tough to choose between the grilled garlic shrimp with warm Brie, grilled vegetables and roasted corn salsa, in a beurre blanc sauce and the steamed Prince Edward Island mussels in white wine garlic tomato beurre blanc.  Choices don’t get easier for the entrée course, with treasures like herb-basted Alaskan cod fillet, oven-poached in white wine, with garlic, tomato fondue, basil beurre blanc; and San Francisco pier stew with white fish, shrimp, mussels and roasted peppers in a garlic, tomato basil, chardonnay broth.  There also are a slew of daily specials with dizzyingly complex flavor profiles and delectable fresh ingredients.  To accompany any choice, Chef Schultz personally selected over 90 sparkling, white, and red boutique wines from family owned vineyards as mainstays on the wine list.  Plaza Colonial, 2870 E. Skyline Drive, Suite 120, 206-0017 www.wildgarlicgrill.com

JPS Seafood Market and Restaurant

This southside hybrid has a dine-in/take-out menu that includes everything from soups, to tacos, to combo platters.  But if you’re a seafood- seeking foodie preferring to stay in, JPS has just what the home chef ordered.  A family owned and operated importer and distributor of fresh and frozen seafood, JPS specializes in bringing fresh product from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez harbors including Kino Bay, Guaymas, and Puerto Peñasco.  Pick up prepared family sized portions of breaded fish, breaded shrimp, chiles Marlin, with salad and corn tortillas to feed the home or office crew.  Or patrons may don the proverbial chef’s hat and choose a perfect cut of fresh or fresh-frozen trigger fish, cochito, shark, flounder, stingray, swai fish, tilapia, salmon, and shrimp to prepare themselves.  Any selection is sure to please even the most finicky fish fan at the table.  5550 S. 12th Ave., #100, 270-3600 www.jpsseafood.com

A Wall-Executed Plan

This project began with a need for privacy for the homeowners and turned into an award-winning full-on renovation.

By Debby Larsen | Photography by Colin Catron

Allen Denomy of Denomy Designs tackled multiple challenges for this landscape renovation at a foothills home. The complex project, which entailed the construction of several different new features, won an award from the Arizona Landscape Contractors’ Association in 2016.

First up in the project was solving a privacy problem with a nearby property. A rammed earth wall consisting of five, nine-foot walls, spaced one foot apart was built to create a visual screen. Not only was the wall functional, it added artistic interest to the new patio.

Each wall is two feet thick, constructed of a mix containing 90 percent native soil and 10 percent concrete. Integral color was added to the mixture in many shades, the wavy patterns mimicking a mountain silhouette. An LED strip for nighttime illumination was recessed inside an opening in the center wall.

The pool’s shape, interior finish and tile were not altered. However, the original coping and Kool Deck were replaced with concrete pavers that simulate natural flagstone.

The steps and the patio near the spa were expanded. A dramatic ground-level metal fire feature was added above the pool. Curved blue glass tiles were installed on the spa overflow section, resulting in a bright focal point. Three synthetic turf areas offer green relief from the flagstone patios and became play spaces for the dog.

The homeowners enjoy cooking outdoors, and a new kitchen — with granite countertops, a cantilevered bar area, and a built-in grill and smoker — was an important feature of the renovation.

Elsewhere in the re-do, custom designed metal trellises help to screen pool equipment, and a purple plant palette became a focal point. Lantana, Texas ranger, Texas mountain laurel and lilac vines added a touch of color to the landscape plan.

A cactus-inspired sculpture from Stone Cactus Water Features, from a local artist David Weinert, incorporates soothing sounds. Queen and ponytail palms gave the yard a touch of the tropics.

The homeowners have told Denomy, “Now we want to spend more time in our new, improved space!”


HG Source:
Allen Denomy, Denomy Designs, https://www.denomydesigns.com/

A rammed earth wall consisting of five, nine-foot walls, spaced one foot apart was built to create a visual screen.

BEFORE:

AFTER:

Pool Plus One

When foothills homeowners approached Pro Remodeling to replace their existing pool, they also had the firm build a pool house.

By Romi Carrell Wittman | Photography by Robin Stancliff

The entire wall of 10-foot windows folds back easily and disappears, creating a seamless look.

The owners of a beautiful Catalina foothills home wanted to have a nicer pool to replace their existing one. They also decided to
add a pool/guest house. The project was designed by local architect Jake Boen of In Place Architecture. Local contractor John Almond of Pro Remodeling, Inc. completed the construction.

The homeowners wanted the new structure to be built near the pool, so they could relax after a refreshing dip. It also would serve as an inviting spot for entertaining, as well as accommodating overnight guests. Accent lighting, travertine pool decking and the interesting patio overhang design make this a truly special addition.

The first phase of construction involved tearing out the old pool and prepping the land. The pool house was new construction, so additional utilities had to be run to the site. Heavy rocks and caliche made the job more difficult.

“That stage took big equipment to level and buttress the ground,” Almond explains. Extensive rip rap retaining walls had to be removed and, as a precaution, the crew cut a new road onto the property to avoid destroying the homeowner’s existing driveway with all the heavy equipment.

The center-piece of the house is a row of tall windows that make up an entire wall of the home.

Once the ground was ready for the pool construction to begin, Almond and his crew stepped aside as the subcontractor completed his work. “The pool is between the residence and guest house so it had to go in first,” Almond adds. “We had to work with each other so we weren’t getting in their way, but we worked well together.”

The finished product is a stunning backyard retreat. The pool house features a kitchenette and a bedroom with full bath, making it perfect for outdoor entertaining as well as hosting overnight guests. The centerpiece of the house is a row of tall windows that make up an entire wall of the home. They fold back, effectively disappearing, creating a seamless indoor/outdoor space ideal for temperate days.

“The windows are 10 feet tall and have a mechanism that makes them very easy to operate,” Almond says.

For cooler evenings, the pool house has a Rumford fireplace, a specialty hearth that is tall and shallow, reflecting more heat than a traditional fireplace. The fireplace surround is stacked travertine.

Custom-made cabinetry and natural stonework can be found throughout the house. “The homeowner picked the colors and the finishes, and we used Chris Trainor, a former employee of ours who is now a custom cabinet maker,” he notes.

Almond says the job, which took about 10 months to complete, is one of his personal favorites and is a signature project for his company. “I enjoy the awesome look of it. The finished product is so nice,” he adds.


HG Sources:

Construction: Pro Remodeling: www.pro-remodeling.com

Architect: Jake Boen, In Place Architecture, PLLC, www.inplacearchitecture.com

Pool Builder: Pools By Design, www.poolsbydesignaz.com

Windows and Doors: Pella Windows and Doors, www.pella.com

 

Lighten Up!

A dark and dull outdoor area was transformed into spaces of openness and light.

By Elena Acoba | Photography by Matt Vacca

Beach serenity and desert views. Lightness and shade. Openness and intimacy. The desires of a couple changing their Foothills home’s backyard appeared to pull in different directions. But landscape designer Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery, APLD, saw the potential of meeting them all in the redo of the 1993 hacienda-style home.

The pool’s facelift includes a cantilevered edge and light-blue paint job. New pool edging is accented with a border of black beach stones.

The pool’s facelift includes a cantilevered edge and light-blue paint job. New pool edging is accented with a border of black beach stones.

“They were just a pleasure to work with,” Przygoda-Montgomery says of the homeowners, she a Canyon Ranch employee, he a University of Arizona professor.

“She really drove the bus,” Przygoda-Montgomery adds. “She was adamant about being very involved with the color choices.”

The palette leans toward light and monochrome, the direct opposite of the old landscape that was filled with red brick, green grass, dark wood and a dark-blue pool surface.

To the homeowners, that old color combination said hot and overbearing. With a south-facing backyard that already was subject to intense sun, it wasn’t the relaxing feel they were after. “They wanted to take advantage of their city views and lush vegetation,” the designer explains about the desired ambiance.

There were several other landscaping issues that the couple wanted to tackle after living in the house for two years. A gathering area with a non-functioning fireplace was enclosed on two sides by a solid wall, and a ramada made it so dark and isolated that Przygoda-Montgomery called it a cave.

Additionally, a solid wall extended the length of the backyard, obscuring the mature eucalyptus and the desert beyond the barrier. There were other issues, as well. Even the plants were surrounded by walls that visually blocked the bottom of the planters and chopped up the space. The grass was contrary to the homeowners’ desire to conserve water. Lastly, the pool had been abandoned.

Grass, brick, the planter walls and the ramada were taken out. A big section of the wall perpendicular to the fireplace was cut out, allowing light to flow in and providing a view of the pool, the planters and the rest of the yard on the other side of the pool and to the desert in the distance.

Small windows on the wall with the fireplace added more light.

 

 

 

The newly renovated outdoor living space exudes a modern and minimalistic vibe.

Both walls were covered in raw concrete stucco, providing texture and a neutral gray background for colorful pillows and potted plants. The fireplace was repaired so that it burns either gas or wood, and a built-in concrete bench was installed.

A light-colored rug dresses up the area around the dining table, which is surrounded by six white molded-plastic chairs.

Brick pavers have been replaced with ivory-colored ones, in which pearlized shells are embedded. They cool down the space, both to the eye and to the touch. By using a color palette of white, gray and blue, Przygoda-Montgomery bucked the trend of adding accents in vibrant Southwest hues that pop in the design.

“When you do reds and oranges, you’re seeing those hot colors,” she says. “I really love bringing in agave blues and seaside colors. It’s a relief to the eyes.”

The outdoor kitchen, a new feature, is of minimal size since a place to cook wasn’t a priority. “She wanted the tiniest barbecue,” the designer says of her client. A short countertop, made of recycled glass, surrounds the 24-inch-long barbecue.

 

A portion of the wall was cut away so the homeowners can enjoy the nighttime city views around their new firepit.

The stunning feature that commands attention is the replacement for the ramada. White-painted wood beams radiate from the fireplace wall and end well past the dining area and over the kitchen.

They are held up by cross beams that seem to float above the walls. It’s engineered so that only one slim post was added, keeping the space open.

They’re topped by a five-sided piece of corrugated metal designed to provide as much shade as possible during the times the couple are likely to use the space. Przygoda-Montgomery says she was glad she was able to add this bit of rustic feel to the modern, minimal design. “Maybe it’s the Bohemian girl in me,” she says, “but I love the sound of the rain on a tin roof. It’s like a musical instrument.”

The pool was put back into service and given a facelift with a new cantilever edge and a light-blue paint job.

Next to it is a new gathering spot that features a square concrete fire pit. The area is defined by groundcover of stabilized decomposed granite.

Part of the back wall was cut away at this spot so that nighttime city views can be enjoyed by those seated in white Acapulco chairs or big pillows. It also allows the professor to see out of the yard from his home-office window.

With the planter walls gone, Przygoda-Montgomery could add low-growing cacti and flowering shrubs to complement larger trees and cacti.

A few stair steps from the fire pit is a lounge area with furniture that mirrors the pool in color and the dining area in style. Strings of light snake up the mesquites on this side of the yard, as well as hang from the beams of the metal roof at the fireplace. Globes of white light in the dining area and in the pool provide soft illumination for nighttime gatherings.

The project was completed nearly two years ago and the designer feels it has held up well. “What I love about this design is that it’s relatable for most people,” she says. “Sometimes designs can be so over the top that most people couldn’t afford it. This is practical, beautiful and affordable design.

“I call it barefoot luxury.”

…and the Winner is…

2018 HGTV Ultimate Outdoor Awards. As the editors’ pick in the Stunning Scriptures category, the project is described as a “backyard turned private paradise,” according to the HGTV website. “This outdoor space…seems like something out of a dream.”

2018 Landscape Design Awards. The project earned a gold award – the highest of three levels of recognition – from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. The international program honors excellence in landscape design.

2017 Gardenista Considered Design Awards. A panel of judges picked the finalists, who then were voted on by the public. As the winner of the best Hardscape Project, the project was described by judge Deborah Needleman this way: “This striking hardscape creates a sense of place.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


TOP A large opening in the wall created a window for additional light and views of the surrounding garden.
RIGHT Cacti and succulents add texture and sculptural forms against the patio’s hardscape.

Sources:
Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery, APLD,
Boxhill Design, boxhilldesign.com
Pavers: Artistic Pavers Mfg.,
www.artisticpavers.com
Furniture: shopboxhill.com
Accessories: Today’s Patio,
www.todayspatio.com/tucson
Installation: Turf Tek, LLC,
www.turftek.com
Shade Structure: Made for Shade,
made4azshade.com
Pool tile: Noble Tile Supply, nobletile.com
Photo Styling Assistant: Hot Cool Vintage,
hotcoolvintage@gmail.com

Digging Up a Diagnosis

Valley fever can affect people, pets and livestock here in Southern Arizona, and can be hard to diagnose.

The University of Arizona’s Valley Fever Center for Excellence and Banner Health have created a tutorial to help local physicians speed up the process. Here’s what you need to know about this pervasive disease.

By Anne Kellogg | Photography by Kris Hanning

It can come on like the flu but may take weeks or months to run its course.  In rare cases, Valley fever can result in severe lung issues or meningitis.  Its symptoms mimic many other illnesses — such as rheumatism and even cancer — causing patients to undergo painful testing and unneeded treatment with antibiotics or steroids.  John Galgiani, M.D., director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, professor of medicine in the Divisions of Infectious Diseases at the UA Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix, member of the UA BIO5 Institute and medical director of the Banner — University Medicine Valley Fever Program, has developed a way to assist physicians in the timely diagnosis of this challenging disease.

What is Valley Fever?

Have you experienced a fever, profuse sweating at night, chest pain and cough, muscle and joint aches — especially in the ankles and knees — loss of appetite, and a rash that resembles measles or hives?  You In Health may have thought you had the flu, but these symptoms also are those of Valley fever, which is caused by spores that live in the soil in Southern Arizona.  In addition to areas of our state, Valley fever can occur in semi-arid and arid soils of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas, as well as the states of Sonora and Chihuahua in Mexico, and Central and South America.

The corridor between Tucson and Phoenix is one of the most endemic regions for Valley fever, so the University of Arizona’s Valley Fever Center for Excellence (VFCE) was established by the Arizona Board of Regents in 1996 to promote education, research and care for this disease.  Dr. Galgiani explains that Valley fever is a difficult disease to detect and treat, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Its medical name, coccidioidomycosis, means fungal infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides . The name is often shortened to “Cocci” (pronounced “kok-see”).  This organism grows in the top six inches of soils in areas of low rainfall, high summer temperatures and Moderate winter temperatures.  In susceptible people or animals, infection occurs when a spore is inhaled.

Infection by the spores doesn’t always lead to detectable disease.  In nearly 60 percent of cases, the symptoms are so mild that individuals may not even realize they are infected.  In the remaining cases, symptoms may range from uncomfortable to miserable to even fatal.  It occasionally can develop into a severe, life-threatening form that may involve skin, bones, or other parts of the body, as well as the brain.  Overall statistics for Valley fever show about 150,000 infections per year, with only one-quarter of one percent contracting meningitis (i.e., roughly two cases per thousand), but increased numbers of cases cause a corresponding increase in serious disease.  Serious forms of the infection require anti fungal therapy.

The diagnosis of this disease is complicated because of the way the lungs respond to the inhaled spores.  Initially the infection causes a pneumonia, which sometimes can turn into a lung nodule or even a

The catheterization lab at Tucson Medical Center.

cavity.  Nodules are small, residual patches of infection that generally appear as single lesions (from one, to one and a half inches, in diameter).  If it is documented that the nodule is caused by Valley fever, no other treatment is required.  However, if the original Valley fever infection goes undiagnosed and the nodule is found on a chance X-ray, it looks no different fromfrom a lung cancer, and a physician may suggest biopsy or even removal.  Nodules caused by cocci can remain forever.  Those who had a mild case may have no symptoms or scarring.  Cavities occur in about 5 percent of patients, and may cause the patient to cough blood or have other chest symptoms.  For some patients, the best management is to have the cavity surgically removed.

In Arizona, infection is likely to occur from May to July and again following Monsoon season, from October to the end of December.  Those in occupations that involve disturbing the soil (such as construction, agriculture or archeology), as well as recreational gardeners, may be at greater risk of contracting the disease.

Two-thirds of all U.S. Valley fever infections occur in Arizona.  Roughly 75 percent occur in Maricopa county, with 20 percent or so occurring in Pima County.  According to Arizona Department of Health Statistics, those susceptible to the most serious consequences of Valley fever include people on chemotherapy, on immune suppression medications because of organ transplant, the elderly, or those with immunodeficiency, such as AIDS.

The Benefits of Early Diagnosis

A primary reason for diagnosing early is removing the patient’s fear of the unknown.  Patients suffering from these long-lasting Respiratory symptoms often undergo multiple diagnostic blood tests, chest X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, bronchoscopy, percutaneous fine-needle aspiration, and even thoracotomies.  They often are prescribed multiple courses of antibiotics from their primary care physicians.  In one study, 81 percent of patients with Valley fever pneumonia received at least one course, and 31 percent received multiple courses.  In addition to the cost, it can create antibiotic resistance.  Another issue is doctors prescribing corticosteroids for the rheumatologic complaints (a synonym for Valley fever is “desert rheumatism”).  The anti-inflammatory effects of corticosteroids may create adverse reactions in patients, as well as increasing the chances of Valley fever complications.

Developing the Tutorial

Out of the need to get Valley fever patients treated early and effectively, Dr. Galgiani and his cohorts at the VFCE teamed with Banner Health to help physicians.  “I am quite excited about this — it’s one of the most positive things to come out of the merger between Banner Health and the University of Arizona faculty medical group,” Dr. Galgiani enthuses.  “Banner Health has specific clinical practices that they share with all of their physicians, and the Valley Fever Center for Excellence developed this information for local and national dissemination.  This will help doctors in other states whose patients visited our area and now have respiratory symptoms associated with Valley fever.

“We spent last year in a planning process, where we designed and refined the ABCs of what a primary care physician should do to diagnose Valley fever early and manage it correctly.  This past September we held a webinar on the topic, and we’ll be training Banner physicians all year.  VFCE is a department of the University of Arizona, not part of Banner, so we’ve made all the tools we developed in this process publically available to any doctor who wants to do what we’re doing.”

The new approach for recognizing and treating a new Valley fever infection is centered around the acronym COCCI:

Consider the diagnosis
Order the right tests
Check for risk factors
Check for complications
Initiate management

Physicians are encouraged to consider Valley fever if any of the following indications are present:

  • Respiratory symptoms and at least one of the following:
    • more than one office visit
    • chest X-ray ordered
    • antibiotics prescribed
  • Two of the following have been present for a prolonged period: fever, fatigue and/or arthralgia (joint pain)
  • High numbers of eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) found in a blood sample
  • Skin rashes known as erythema nodosum or erythema multiforme

The tutorial and all the other resources created for the clinical practice training can be accessed online at https://vfce.arizona. edu/education/banner-valley-fever-clinical- practice-toolbox.

For more information on the new UA/ Banner clinical practice protocols, see the Valley Fever Clinical Practice Toolbox at the VFCE website, which includes the webinar mentioned earlier.

The protocols were developed with assistance from David Valenzuela, M.D., a Phoenix-area family practice physician, clinical assistant professor at the UA College of Medicine — Phoe

nix and the physician executive who heads Banner Medical Group Primary Care.

As part of the effort, Dr. Galgiani and Fariba Donovan, M.D., Ph.D., another VFCE researcher and faculty physician with the UA Division of Infectious Diseases, are providing small group training sessions for six to 12 clinicians each at 39 Banner Health clinical sites across the State.

They completed about a half dozen sessions by the end of January.

I Want a New Drug…

“There have been no recent breakthroughs or changes in the antifungals that are used in Valley fever,” Dr. Galgiani notes.  “There are a lot of divergent opinions on whether to start patients on fluconazole … it depends on the patient’s clinical presentation.  The antifungal treatments don’t cure it — they can help, but only by suppressing it.  If the patient’s immune system doesn’t ‘step up to the challenge’ when the antifungal drugs are stopped, those who really needed treatment will relapse.”

Researchers at UA have been working on a drug called nikkomycin Z as a new treatment for fungal infections, particularly Cocci.  “It works by blocking an enzyme that is important in making the cell wall,” Dr. Galgiani explains.  “An key part of the cell wall is ‘chitin.’ Chitin is made by an enzyme called chitin synthase, and nikkomycin Z blocks that enzyme.  In that regard it’s similar to penicillin, which acts by blocking formation of the cell wall of a bacterium.”

Because this drug’s most important use would be for Valley fever here in the Southwest, which isn’t a worldwide disease, drug companies haven’t had a strong incentive to develop it.

“We’re trying very hard to get it back into clinical trials, and have been making progress, but the bottom line is that it needs more financial support than we’ve been able to get.  The National Institutes of Health has been very supportive, but they’re not a pharmaceutical company.

They want this drug to go forward, but we haven’t yet gotten the support to do it.  It’s frustrating … we hope to find a pharmaceutical company that would be willing to partner with us.”

When a medication or a vaccine is created for human use, it must go through many clinical trials and intense scrutiny by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).  Drugs for dogs and other veterinary purposes also require FDA approval.  However, veterinary vaccines are cleared by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  “Work on an effective vaccine for the prevention of Valley fever has been ongoing for decades,” says Dr. Galgiani.  “Currently, we have a vaccine candidate that shows excellent protection in mice.  We are proceeding through the steps to bring this Vaccine through USDA approval for use in our canine patients.  That itself would be a wonderful accomplishment.  Just as exciting, if our vaccine candidate is found to protect dogs from Valley fever, that will add to the evidence that a similar vaccine might ultimately be used to protect ourselves.”

Work on the vaccine is being coordinated through the following VFCE research partners: Marc Orbach, Ph.D., Jeffrey Frelinger, Ph.D., and Lisa Shubitz, DVM, at the University of Arizona; Colorado State University’s Richard Bowen, DVM, Ph.D.; and Anivive Lifesciences Inc., a Californiabased biotechnology company that licensed the vaccine in 2017 from the UA through Tech Launch Arizona, the university unit that helps commercialize innovations developed at UA.

Getting the Word Out

In addition to helping physicians diagnose Valley fever earlier, the Valley Fever Center for Excellence (VFCE) at the University of Arizona and the Arizona Department of Health Services (AzDHS) also are trying to educate the public.

For example, a billboard will go up this month in Phoenix with the words ““Pneumonia or flu for weeks? It could be Valley fever. Ask your doctor for the test.”

The campaign is being funded by a grant from IMMY, a Norman, Oklahoma-based firm that specializes in high-quality diagnostic tools for diseases caused by fungi such as Aspergillus, Blastomyces, Candida, Coccidioides, Cryptococcus and Histoplasma.

It’s coordinated through the VFCE; Kenneth Komatsu, M.P.H., state epidemiologist and chief of the Office of Infectious Diseases with the AzDHS Division of Public Health Preparedness; and Rebecca Sunenshine, M.D., a captain in the U.S. Public Health Service, epidemiology field officer for the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention and medical director of disease control for Maricopa County Public Health.

Look for the billboard along Interstate 10 or the 202 Loop in Phoenix starting March 4.

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