French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi  announced today that it had begun research and development into a vaccine against the mosquito-borne Zika virus, blamed for causing a surge in brain-damaged babies.

The company said the success of its Sanofi Pasteur vaccines division in developing a vaccine against dengue fever could be “rapidly leveraged” in the fight against Zika.

The announcement comes a day after the World Health Organization declared an international emergency over the Zika virus which it last week warned was “spreading explosively” in the Americas.

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