The US and Brazil have agreed to work together to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus which is spreadng rapidly across the Americas.
During a phone call on Friday evening, US President Barack Obama and his Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff discussed their “shared concerns” about the mosquito-borne disease, which has been linked to brain defects in babies.
“The leaders agreed on the importance of collaborative efforts to deepen our knowledge, advance research, and accelerate work to develop better vaccines and other technologies to control the virus,” the White House said in a statement.
It said the pair also “agreed to continue to prioritise building national, regional and global capacity to combat infectious disease threats more broadly”.
Ms Rousseff’s office said a high-level bilateral group would “develop a partnership in the production of vaccines and therapeutics”.
It will be based on an existing cooperation agreement between Brazil’s Butantan Institute of biomedical research and the US National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine against dengue.
But no matter how fast they are able to act, scientists have warned that it could take years for a Zika vaccine to become available.
There is currently no specific treatment for Zika, and no way to prevent it other than to avoid mosquito bites.
Ms Rousseff has vowed to “win the war” against the virus amid criticism over her government’s response.
“As long as (the mosquitoes) are reproducing, we are all losing the battle. We have to mobilise to win it,” she said.
“We are going to show that the Brazilian people are capable of winning this war.”
Her comments came after her own health minister warned Brazil was “losing the war against Aedes aegypti,” the mosquito that carries the virus.
Since Zika was detected in Latin America last year there has been a surge in babies born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads.
Brazil, the hardest hit, sounded the alarm in October, when a rash of microcephaly cases emerged in the northeast.
Since then, there have been 270 confirmed cases of microcephaly and 3,448 suspected cases, up from 147 in 2014.
On Friday, Germany said it has had five cases of the virus between October 2015 and January 2016.