University of Arizona Valley Fever Drug Gets Fast Tracked By FDA

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Friday, October 3, 2014 - 2:59pm
Updated: Friday, October 3, 2014 - 4:51pm
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(Photo Courtesy of Lisa Shubitz)
A single spherule magnified 40 times. A spherule develops in the lung after the Valley Fever fungus is inhaled.

A drug that could cure Valley Fever is getting fast tracked by the Food and Drug Administration. This could help the medicine that has been in development for more than 30 years finally get to market. 

Nikkomycin was discovered in Japan in the 1970s. Dr. John Galgiani leads researchers at the University of Arizona and believes the antibiotic can cure Valley Fever. The FDA fast track is important because it offers drug companies exclusive rights to manufacture the medicine for five years. He said drug companies need that incentive because the market is small. 

“Even though Valley Fever is very, very intensely in our part of the country in Phoenix and Tucson it’s still considered a pretty rare disease,” said Galgiani. 

Valley Fever is so rare that it affects less than 200,000 people annually. But those afflicted are concentrated in Arizona and California. Galgiani said drugs for Valley Fever on the market now make the fungus dormant but don’t cure the disease. 

“It doesn’t actually cure the disease in that way, it just makes the fungus go to sleep and it is never a problem again,” said Galgiani, much like chicken pox.

Galgiani said if Nikkomycin works in humans how it has worked in experiments with mice, it would eradicate the fungus from the person.

“In the experimental studies in mice it looks like it might cure the infection and if that’s true and we can show that in humans," Galgiani said. "This will differentiate from everything we have to date which doesn’t cure the infection. It helps, but doesn’t cure it.”

Human trials are set to start next year and the drug could be made available to the public by 2020.