The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will include the fungus that causes valley fever on a list of pathogens eligible for federal research funding.
Experts like John Galgiani from the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the University of Arizona say the move will aid in the development of drugs to treat the disease.
"It's another example of increasing recognition of the importance of this problem," Galgiani said. "And repeated recognition can only help but identify this as an unmet need deserving of further funding."
The announcement by the FDA gives valley fever a higher priority for funding treatment and potentially even a vaccine. It would also give drug companies an extra five years of marketing exclusivity for those products.
Valley fever is caused by a fungus that thrives throughout the Central Valley and other parts of the Southwest, sending out spores. If inhaled the fungus can grow in people’s lungs and can spread throughout the body.
Those infected by valley fever can experience flu like symptoms but in severe cases it can lead to long term disability or death. The only treatment available for patients is anti-fungal medication.