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Valley fever cure invented in Arizona being fast-tracked by FDA

PHOENIX — A cure for valley fever developed at the University of Arizona is being fast-tracked by the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. John Galgiani with UA said the drug has been extremely effective on mice with valley fever.

“The potential for this being very safe is pretty large,” he said. “It’s a first-in-class. Nobody has had this kind of strategy before. It’s a pretty exciting drug.”

Galgiani said the FDA has cleared the drug for human testing in 2015.

“It shows that the FDA wants drugs like this to get to the market,” he said of the FDA’s decision to fast-track the drug.

He hopes to have it on store shelves within three to five years.

Valley fever is a fungus that is found in soil. It is spread when the soil is disrupted by farming, wind or other means and the spores are inhaled. The symptoms range from fever to chest pains and coughing, though two of three people infected do not display symptoms.

The arrival of the monsoon in Arizona often spurs fears of a jump in valley fever cases given the large dust storms that blow through the state.

About two-thirds of all valley fever infections diagnosed in the United States are in Arizona. Last year, during a period of heavy wind, a Valley doctor estimated one in every 30 Phoenicians could contract the fungus.

Galgiani said the only way to build immunity to valley fever is being infected.

“It’s not repetitive exposure. If you do get infected, you may or may not get sick. Most people get over the illness and from that point on you’re probably immune from a second infection for life.”

Galgiani said it can take weeks or months to make a full recovery from the fungal infection.

KTAR’s Cooper Rummell, Jim Cross and Bob McClay contributed to this report.