Valley Fever vaccination research receives attention

Congressman Kevin McCarthy is pleased the National Institute of Health has identified ways of funding vaccination research

CENTRAL VALLEY – After almost 50 years of no success in creating a vaccination against Valley Fever, the National Institute of Health created a strategic plan to create a vaccine.

In order to further their Valley Fever vaccine research, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has found a new avenue to receive funding. It will come from a Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) that they recently released which “stimulates grant-supported research in high-priority” areas, according to their website. In the notice, they state their strategy for finding a Valley Fever vaccine. Congressman Kevin McCarthy, a Valley Fever Task Force Co-Chair, said that this NOSI could even garner the attention from government funding.

“I am pleased that NIH [National Institute of Health] has identified additional funding avenues to support Valley Fever vaccine research and development,” McCarthy said in a statement. “This could deliver additional federal research dollars to the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical.” 

The NOSI, released at the end of November, outlines a three step plan for research and development. Valley Fever is caused by the fungus coccidioides, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Much of their research will be geared toward coccidioides, and will be conducted as follows:

  • Strategic priority 1: Address gaps in coccidioides basic research to support the development of a vaccine 
  • Strategic priority 2: develop tools and resources to support coccidioides vaccine research 
  • Strategic priority 3: develop and advance vaccines to prevent coccidioidomycosis

“This announcement also follows provisions I secured in last year’s appropriations package directing the NIH to continue prioritizing Valley Fever vaccine development, and complements my continued work with Valley Fever Task Force Co-Chair Rep. David Schweikert to prioritize research of diagnostic tools and treatments for this disease at NIH,” McCarthy said. 

McCarthy has been fighting for more attention for Valley Fever Research for many years, according to his most recent press release. Most recently the provisions he secured accompanied the Fiscal Year 2022 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act that directed the NIH to submit to Congress a 10-year strategic plan to develop a Valley Fever vaccine by 2031.

In February 2022, McCarthy secured $4.5 million in three grant awards to establish collaborative research centers across the United states for Valley Fever according to a press release from his office. Additionally, two provisions from McCarthy were passed requiring the Food and Drug Administration to hold a public workshop full of experts to streamline the development of drugs and vaccines. He has also led a roundtable on the matter as well as other initiatives. 

Valley Fever is a disease that mostly affects those living in the arid southwestern region of the United States, Mexico and Central and South America according to the NIH. It is an infection from a fungus that lives in soil that presents flu-like symptoms and can mimic pneumonia. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), in 2019 there were over 20,000 cases reported to the CDC, most of whom lived in Arizona and California. There is currently no licensed vaccination to prevent Valley fever even though research began in the 1960s.

People contract the infection from inhaling fungal spores, which usually enter the air when soil or dust is kicked up, like from agriculture or construction work. The spores prefer to live in undisturbed and dry natural soil. Once they’ve entered the air, valley fever spores can travel up to 75 miles. People who work outside, like farm workers, tend to be at a greater risk of contracting the infection.

Less than 10% of people who contract valley fever are diagnosed and about two-thirds never present any symptoms. About 3% of people infected with valley fever deal with some aversion to the infection that requires life-long treatment. For less than 1% of patients, the infection travels to other parts of their body, like their bones, spine, skin and brain and can be fatal.

Start typing and press Enter to search