The European Commission is providing €10m in funding to support research on the Zika virus, which is currently found to be active in several parts of Latin America.
In November last year, preliminary evidence emerged that the Zika virus may be associated with an observed increase in neurological complications in adults, and severe congenital brain malformations in newborns born to mothers infected during pregnancy.
The projects will prove that the Zika virus is responsible for the cause of severe brain malformations reported in newborn children and other neurological complications, and would be eligible to receive the funding.
If proven, researchers could then begin developing diagnostics and testing potential treatments or vaccines to combat the Zika virus.
The funding is being provided through the Horizon 2020 EU research and innovation funding programme.
European commissioner for research, science and innovation Carlos Moedas said: "This funding will enable urgently needed research on the emerging global threat of the Zika virus.
"This shows once again that we are ready to face new epidemics like Zika with fast and effective research."
Several other research initiatives that can aid in the fight against Zika are also being funded under Horizon 2020.
A research on vaccine development for malaria and neglected infectious diseases includes the Zika virus, and is being backed a €40m funding.
An additional €10m has been offered to support the research infrastructures for the control of vector-borne diseases to combat the mosquitoes that spread Zika and a number of other prevalent diseases.
The EU is also co-funding a research on the prevention of infectious diseases in Latin America and the Caribbean under the ERANET programme.
Brazil minister of science, technology and innovation Celso Pansera said: "The partnership with the European Union in research on the virus Zika will be very important to help Brazilian researchers in combating epidemic diseases that affect our country.
"In addition, the initiative will stimulate research and technology on a global scale for the benefit of the population throughout the world."
To date, several cases of brain malformations in newborns reported across Brazil may be associated with the Zika virus.
Although the risk of transmission of the Zika virus in the EU is low, there is currently no treatment or vaccine against the virus and diagnostic tests for infections are not widely available.
Image: Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits the Zika virus. Photo: courtesy of James Gathany.