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Posted On: 27 May 2014 10:23 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:14 pm

Global gathering of experts to combat infectious diseases in MENA region

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Medical and public health experts from all over the world are convened in Doha this week to discuss serious viral diseases affecting the Middle East and North Africa, such as Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS and MERS.

The Endemic and Emerging Viral Diseases of Priority in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) workshop will run from 26-29 May and is supported by the National Institutes of Health, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q), Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) of Qatar Foundation, Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health, Hamad Medical Corporation, and Sidra Medical and Research Center.

The interdisciplinary workshop is part of a collaborative initiative between the United States, Qatar, and the rest of the MENA region. It is led from the United States by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (NIAID/NIH/HHS) in partnership with the National Institute of Health’s Office of Rare Diseases (NIH/ORD/HHS) and the U.S. Department of State’s Bio-engagement Program (DOS/BEP).

Dr. Saleh Al Marri, Assistant Secretary General for Medical Affairs at the Supreme Council of Health, said: "Bringing renowned experts in the field of viral diseases to Qatar from elite institutions all over the world is an extremely important step in the effort to control infectious diseases that affect people in the Middle East and North Africa.

“Our aim is that we in Qatar can provide a forum within which researchers from all over our region as well as from the United States, Europe and the Far East, can collaborate to develop initiatives that will help to eliminate these diseases, which cause terrible suffering to very large numbers of people all over the world.”

In a series of plenary sessions held over four days at the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha, researchers are discussing a variety of issues relating to viral diseases, including the status of the HIV epidemic, Hepatitis C treatment, the biology of the Middle East Respiratory Virus-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV), and vaccine development.

The aim is to promote international collaboration on research to combat viral diseases in the MENA region, an issue that has been highlighted recently by the fatalities caused by the MERS virus. The workshop is also discussing the risks to public health in the MENA region posed by Hepatitis C and E and Flaviviruses like the Alkhumra virus.

The researchers contributing to the workshop are drawn from elite global institutions including Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University in the United States, Toulouse University in France, as well as leading institutions from the MENA region such as WCMC-Q, American University of Beirut, Tripoli Medical Centre in Libya, Cairo University in Egypt, the University of Jordan.

The NIH and QNRF have formed a partnership to provide seed funding to scientists in attendance at the workshop for research projects into infectious diseases.

Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCMC-Q, said the workshop brought different nations together for the benefit of all.

He said: “Through collaboration, countries and research institutions can combine their efforts and their knowledge to combat these diseases. Part of WCMC-Q’s tripartite mission is to improve healthcare for all and we are determined to do that in a myriad of ways whether it is through training world-class doctors or conducting high-level research.”

Susan L. Ziadeh, Ambassador of the United States of America to the State of Qatar, said: “The United States is deeply committed to working with the Government of Qatar and others in the region and elsewhere, as they strive to improve the health of individuals and communities throughout North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. A significant element of our commitment is expressed through our support for collaborative biomedical research and research training, which are the focus of this important workshop.”

Dr. Laith Abu-Raddad, Associate Professor of Public Health at WCMC-Q, said: “Viral diseases pose a significant threat to the health of people across the MENA region and more needs to be done to enhance the capacity of this region to combat this threat.

“By coordinating the efforts of researchers through events such as this workshop, and the funding mechanism that comes with it, we can more effectively introduce measures to monitor and prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases, develop vaccines and vaccination programs, and introduce programs to educate the public about ways to minimize the risk of contracting serious diseases. Infectious diseases do not respect national borders, and as such we must endeavor to coordinate a global response to them.”

- ILQ News -