Blastomyces dermatitidis Environmental Prevalence in Minnesota: Analysis and Modeling Using Soil Collected at Basal and Outbreak Sites

Katrina M. Jackson, Keith C. Pelletier, Joni Scheftel, Joshua D. Kerkaert, Serina L. Robinson, Tami McDonald, Jeff B. Bender, Joseph F. Knight, Malia Ireland, Kirsten Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Outbreaks of blastomycosis, caused by the fungus Blastomyces dermati-tidis, occur in areas of endemicity in the United States and Canada, but the geographic range of blastomycosis is expanding. Previous studies inferred the location of B. dermatitidis through epidemiologic data associated with outbreaks because culture of B. dermatitidis from the environment is often unsuccessful. In this study, we used a culture-independent, PCR-based method to identify B. dermatitidis DNA in environmental samples using the BAD1 promoter region. We tested 250 environmental samples collected in Minnesota, either associated with blastomycosis outbreaks or environmental samples collected from regions of high and low endemicity to determine the basal prevalence of B. dermatitidis in the environment. We identified a fifth BAD1 promoter haplotype of B. dermatitidis prevalent in Minnesota. Ecological niche analysis identified latitude, longitude, elevation, and site classification as environmental parameters associated with the presence of B. dermatitidis. Using this analysis, a random forest model predicted the presence of B. dermatitidis in basal environmental samples with 75% accuracy. These data support the use of culture-independent, PCR-based environmental sampling to track spread into new regions and to characterize the unknown B. dermatitidis environmental niche. IMPORTANCE Upon inhalation of spores from the fungus Blastomyces dermatitidis from the environment, humans and animals can develop the disease blastomycosis. Based on disease epidemiology, B. dermatitidis is known to be endemic in the United States and Canada around the Great Lakes and in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys but is starting to emerge in other areas. B. dermatitidis is extremely difficult to culture from the environment, so little is known about the environmental reservoirs for this pathogen. We used a culture-independent PCR-based assay to identify the presence of B. dermatitidis DNA in soil samples from Minnesota. By combining molecular data with ecological niche modeling, we were able to predict the presence of B. dermatitidis in environmental samples with 75% accuracy and to define characteristics of the B. dermatitidis environmental niche. Importantly, we showed the effectiveness of using a PCR-based assay to identify B. dermatitidis in environmental samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project was provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Minnesota Department of Health to J.S and K.N. This project was also supported by a University of Minnesota Academic Health Center BSL3 award. K.M.J. was funded in part by National Institutes of Health F31AI148047.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


  • GIS
  • animal
  • canine
  • dog
  • endemic mycoses
  • human fungal pathogen
  • modeling
  • modelling
  • mycoses
  • mycosis
  • nonculturable
  • soil
  • soil microbiology
  • veterinary
  • veterinary pathogens

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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