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HBKU Press Highlights Hepatitis Causes and Prevalence in Qatar

Doha, Qatar: Hepatitis is a disease which encompasses inflammation of the liver. There are five main Hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, D, and E), and they differ in their severity and how they are spread but are all still a variation of the liver disease. Studies published on HBKU Press’s online, open-access platform, QScience.com, illustrate Hepatitis in relevance to Qatar.

Dr. Alwaleed Alkhaja, Senior Editor at HBKU Press, says: “QScience.com’s new collection feature provides a compilation of articles on a particular subject matter so any viewer can have easy access to specific information. In this case, studies relating to Hepatitis’ prevalence in relation to the Arab region have been gathered. Hepatitis outbreaks occur mostly in developing regions where sanitation is low and whose populations have low socioeconomic statuses, and it is crucial to be aware of its presence to prevent its spread.”

The Arabian Gulf is classified as highly endemic, meaning the region is prone to developing Hepatitis E virus (HEV). In Qatar specifically, this may be due to its diverse population, as a high number of expatriate workers come from countries with low-socioeconomic statuses that are highly endemic for HEV. An article titled “Is it the time for Hepatitis E virus (HEV) Testing for Blood Donors in Qatar?” published from Qatar Foundation Annual Research Conference Proceedings (2016), Gheyath Nasrallah and Laila Hedaya et. al. (from Qatar University) speculate on HEV’s transmission in Qatar via blood transfusion.

The researchers hypothesized that HEV’s prevalence in Qatar is elevated, and therefore, there is a risk of HEV transfusion transmitted infections in Qatar’s blood bank. The chief aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of HEV among healthy blood donors in Qatar, and researchers examined this by testing a total of 4056 blood samples from blood donors at Hamad Medical Corporation.

The results showed that out of all the samples, almost one quarter of blood donors (20.45%) tested positive for HEV antibodies, meaning that the respective individuals have been exposed to HEV, but have not necessarily been infected by it. This suggests the possibility of HEV transmission by blood transfusion. Moreover, researchers concluded that blood banks in Qatar should consider screening for HEV, especially when transfusion involves pregnant women or patients with weak immune systems.

Though Nasrallah et. al.’s study explores HEV in their study, Hamad Medical Corperation’s Doctors Hamad Eid Al Romaihi and Elmoubasher Farag et. al. shed light on other forms of Hepatitis. Their findings are demonstrated in an article titled “Viral Hepatitis C Serological and Behavioral Survey Among Single Male Laborers in Qatar,” published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine Trauma and Acute Care (2016).

The objectives of this study were to measure the prevalence of Hepatitis C among single male laborers and to detect the practices that may accelerate the spread of the infection. This was done by means of a cross-sectional study involving 504 expatriate single male laborers seeking health care in two Qatar Red Crescent health centers.

Results showed that only 5% of the total participants had ever been tested for Hepatitis C, and four respondents tested positive for this. Of these four cases, three did not know that they were infected, and 2.5% lived with someone harboring the infection. Various risk practices for Hepatitis C were reported including ear/body piercing, tattooing, and contact with blood. Less than 40% of respondents had knowledge of these modes of Hepatitis C transmission.

Both articles drew to the clear conclusion that due to the highly multicultural population in Qatar, made up of a large portion of peoples from countries with low socio-economic backgrounds, further actions must be taken to raise awareness about the disease and towards the prevention of the many forms of Hepatitis. Some suggestions included building Hepatitis monitoring systems, setting prevention plans, building screening strategies a 3-year screening policy for employees wishing to renew their work contracts in Qatar.

For a look at the entire featured collection of articles about Hepatitis on Qscience.com, go to: http://www.qscience.com/toc/qcoll/2017/2 .