zika virus komarci.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ESTEBAN BIBA

An Indian biotech company is working on developing vaccines for the Zika virus, the company's founder said Wednesday.

"We have two Zika vaccine candidates in development. While one of them has reached the stage of pre-clinical trials in animals, the other is in an earlier stage of development," said Krishna Ella, chairman of Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency over the mosquito-borne virus.

Zika has spread rapidly in the Americas, causing alarm because of its apparent association with some cases of microcephaly - a congenital condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.

There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for the Zika virus. French drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur said Tuesday it had also launched a research project to develop a vaccine.

The vaccines being developed by Bharat Biotech still must undergo clinical trials to prove their efficacy and safety.

Ella said if the Indian government declared Zika virus a national emergency and supported the trials, the development and regulatory approval process could be shortened to two years instead of the usual seven to eight years.

Zika has not been reported in India, but the government has appointed an agency to monitor the situation. It has also advised pregnant woman against travelling to countries with the virus.

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