Home > companies > Sanofi launches R&D for vaccine against Zika virus

New Delhi: A day after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus-linked condition as public health emergency of international concern, Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of drugmaker Sanofi, on Tuesday launched a vaccine research and development project aimed at preventing infections from the virus.

Currently, there is no available vaccine or specific treatment for Zika virus infection.

WHO on Monday declared a health emergency as the virus infection spread to more than 20 countries in the Americas since 2015. The United Nations agency took such a decision after taking stock of clusters of microcephaly cases, a neurological condition in which a newborn’s head is smaller than normal and such disorders in some areas affected by the disease.

Brazil, France, the US and El Salvador provided the WHO with information on the potential link between Zika Virus and neurological disorders such as microcephaly.

Vector control remains an important way of controlling the mosquitoes that carry the virus, which is closely related to dengue as it belongs to the same Flavivirus genus and is spread by the same species of mosquito.

The virus usually causes fever, rash, headaches, joint and muscle pain as well as non-purulent conjunctivitis, but some patients do not show symptoms. The WHO, on Monday, stressed on a few major challenges involving the Zika virus outbreak, including the wide geographical distribution of the mosquito vector, the lack of population immunity in affected areas and the absence of rapid diagnostics and vaccines.

On Tuesday, the UN agency called for more research into the cause of new clusters of microcephaly and other neurologic disorders to determine whether there is a causative link to Zika virus and/or other factors or co-factors.

Sanofi Pasteur has already licenced vaccines against yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and, most recently, dengue. “Sanofi Pasteur is responding to the global call to action to develop a Zika vaccine given the disease’s rapid spread and possible medical complications," said Nicholas Jackson, global head of research at Sanofi Pasteur and the head of the new Zika virus vaccine project.

“In addition to the serious possibility of congenital complications associated with Zika, investigations are also under way to assess another reported connection between Zika and a dangerous neurological disorder," he said in a statement.

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