QScience.com, the online, open-access platform of HBKU Press, published a new collection of studies focused on Hepatitis, and its relevance to 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 severity, but still considered a variation of the liver disease. 

Dr Alwaleed Alkhaja, Senior Editor at HBKU Press, said that QScience.com’s new collection 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 socio-economic status, 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 socio-economic status that are highly endemic for HEV. An article published from Qatar Foundation’s Annual Research Conference Proceedings (2016) – Is it the time for Hepatitis E virus (HEV) Testing for Blood Donors in Qatar? – speculate on HEV’s transmission in Qatar via blood transfusion.

The researchers hypothesised that HEV’s prevalence in Qatar is elevated, and therefore, there is a risk of HEV transfusion transmitting 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 4,056 blood samples from blood donors at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).

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 the study explores HEV, HMC Doctors Hamad Eid Al Romaihi and Elmoubasher Farag shed light on other forms of Hepatitis. Their findings are demonstrated in an article published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine Trauma and Acute Care (2016) – Viral Hepatitis C Serological and Behavioural Survey Among Single Male Labourers in Qatar.

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

Results showed that only 5% of all participants were 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 harbouring 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 concluded that due to the highly multicultural population in Qatar, 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 for a three-year screening policy for employees wishing to renew their work contracts in Qatar.

Check this link to see the entire featured collection of articles about Hepatitis on Qscience.com.