More MS news articles for June 2001

Pan-Arab symposium calls for greater collaboration

WCN 2001 - Day 3 - Wednesday 20 June 2001
Investigators: Abdul Kader Daif, Faycal Hentati and Obsis Madkour
Wednesday Jun 20th, 2001
by Melissa Mertl

Certain populations in the Arab world have a higher degree of inherited muscular diseases, less multiple sclerosis, but similar levels of dementia, researchers at a Pan Arab symposium said here today. In the face of scarce data, they are doing their part to fill in the missing pieces.

The Arab world comprises a diverse array of countries sharing a similar language and cultural heritage. Two hundred thirty-six million inhabitants from mixed ethnic origins with high migration rates make up this mélange. But a high degree of consanguineous marriages leads to marked patterns of disease distribution, researchers at the Pan Arab forum said today. They urged for more research in this area.

Little data exist on rates of muscle-wasting diseases in the Arab world, pointed out Faycal Hentati, the minister of public health at the National Institute of Neurology in La Rabta, Tunisia. "But we know by personal experience of the very, very large numbers." Diseases like congenital muscular dystrophy occur much more frequently in Arab countries, he said.

Hentati presented work showing that of the various muscular dystrophy classifications, all patients identified had only one of the nine known mutations.

And the populations in the Middle East tend to demonstrate lower rates of multiple sclerosis compared with those in Europe, noted Abdul Kader Daif. He and his colleagues at King Khalid University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, reported on the first study to be conducted in the Middle East for human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing in multiple sclerosis patients.

It is well established that people at risk of developing multiple sclerosis - thought to be influenced by a variety of genes as well as environmental factors - can be identified by the presence of HLA DRB1*15 and DQB1*06, noted Daif.

Using PCR and sequence-specific oligonucleotide probes, the team compared data from 36 Saudi MS patients with 50 healthy age- and sex-matched controls. The HLA-type of the Saudi MS patients was found to differ from the commonest type established for European MS patients. Rather than HLA DRB1*15, these Saudi patients tend to have the HLA DRB1*04 and *07 alleles.

Researchers in Israel have recently done a similar analysis, Daif added. Their results indicate that Jewish people of European descent also differed in HLA-type compared with Jewish people of non-European descent. Such work "will eventually aid in the treatment of multiple sclerosis," said Daif.

Not everyone pointed out differences. An extensive literature review of Egyptian studies led Obsis Madkour of Cairo University in Egypt to conclude that "dementia and Alzheimer's disease prevail in Upper Egypt as frequently as in other communities." Nevertheless, she says, more studies are required.

Vice-president of the Pan-Arab Union of Neurological Sciences, Basim Yaqub of the Riyadh Armed Forces Hospital, Saudi Arabia, commented: "We are like Europe was 15 years ago."

Session chair, and President of the Pan Arab Union of Neurological Sciences, Saleh Al Deeb, said there was a real benefit in organizing such a regionally-based session. "I am proud of your work," he told the presenters. "It is time for us to discuss collaboration long-term. I urge all the Arab countries to work together."

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