Drugmakers begin developing vaccine for Zika
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, answers reporters' questions about the Zika virus after his remarks at the Economic Club of Washington at their winter luncheon in Washington January 29, 2016 Reuters

Japanese Drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical is putting together a team to develop a vaccine for Zika virus, which is fast spreading through the Americas.

Takeda, Asia's largest drugmaker, is working with global health organisations in this regard, its president for the vaccine business told Bloomberg.

Rajeev Venkayya did not specify whether Takeda was attempting to develop its own vaccine. The eight-member team will be led by Venkayya, who previously worked as presidential advisor at the White House.

Takeda, which is conducting trials on a dengue fever vaccine, has other vaccine programmes on the same virus family as Zika.

French pharmaceutical company Sanofi and US-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals are also planning the development of a Zika vaccine.

"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," Nicholas Jackson, who is leading the new Zika vaccine project, told Reuters.

GlaxoSmithKline has said it is doing a feasibility study on the suitability of its vaccine technology for the potential development of Zika vaccine.

There is currently no vaccine for the disease, which has created the biggest public health concern after the Ebola outbreak.

Some US scientists had earlier said a vaccine for the dreaded virus will be ready in two years but its public availability will not happen in less than ten years.

Zika virus, which is spreading to more countries in the central and South Americas, is suspected to have caused brain damage in hundreds of newborn babies in Brazil.

World Health Organisation Director-General Margaret Chan said it is "strongly suspected but not yet scientifically proven" that Zika causes microcephaly, the foetal brain damage syndrome.

In Colombia, more than 2,000 pregnant women were infected with the virus, reports said, raising alarm about the disease that has the worst impact on pregnant women.

Officials in Australia and the United States also said the virus infection has been confirmed in their countries. In the US, it is suspected that the patient had contracted the disease from sexual contact.