Kern County's two congressman and other House members have asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to place valley fever on its list of "qualifying pathogens" to improve the chances of it being studied and better treated.
The FDA is developing the list as required by the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now Act, according to the office of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield. The Act incentivizes development of products to prevent and treat antibiotic-resistant infections.
The law also clears regulatory roadblocks to creation of antibiotics and extends the time approved drugs are free from competition, perhaps enticing researchers to research -- and companies to invest in developing -- them.
In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg dated earlier this week, McCarthy, Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, and others said the fungi that cause valley fever should be on the Act's list because there is no cure or vaccine for valley fever; the fungi are resistant to all known, on-the-market antifungal drugs; and today's non-specific antifungal treatments for valley fever have a 30 to 60 percent failure rate.
The congressmen pointed out the big uptick in valley fever from 1998 to 2011 and the misery the disease causes.
"Representing parts of the American southwest, many of us know individuals or have friends or constituents who have been affected by this disease and know firsthand how it can affect the lives of patients and their families," they wrote.
People contract valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis, by inhaling fungal spores from the soil. Symptoms can range from flu-like ailments to serious complications that can be deadly.