The Brazilian government has signed an agreement worth 100 million reais ($24.8 million) with the Sao Paulo-based Butantan Institute to conduct further trials of a vaccine for dengue fever.

Under the terms of the agreement signed by Health Minister Marcelo Castro in the presence of President Dilma Rousseff, the government will fund a new stage of studies over the next two years of the vaccine developed by the research center.

The Butantan Institute has estimated that a vaccine to prevent dengue, a viral disease whose incidence increased by 178 percent in Brazil from 2014 to 2015, will be ready in 2018.

At the signing ceremony, Rousseff discussed the importance of making the public aware of the need to eliminate areas where the Aedes aegypti mosquito, also a vector for the Zika and Chikungunya viruses, breeds.

"As long as we don't have a vaccine, we need to be more effective in preventing the birth of more children with microcephaly, which some have associated with the Zika virus, and to reduce the number of dengue and Chikungunya cases," Rousseff said, adding that two-thirds of the sites where insects breed were within households.

The vaccine against dengue will be tested this year on 17,000 volunteers before receiving final approval from the National Health Monitoring Agency.

During the trial, two-thirds of the volunteers will receive the single-dose vaccine, which can be administered to people of all ages, while one-third will receive a placebo.

So far, 900 people have received the vaccine in previous phases of the clinical trials, which have shown that the medication may induce the production of antibodies against the four known types of dengue virus.

The new phase, however, will test for the first time in humans whether the vaccine is effective in preventing dengue.

In January, Brazil registered a 48.2 percent increase in probable dengue cases, and the country had a record 1.65 million dengue cases last year. EFE

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