QU-CHS students’ research sheds light on chronic diseases in Qatar
January 18 2019 11:58 PM
The Department of Public Health at Qatar University’s College of Health Sciences is the first of its kind in Qatar, offering bachelor and master degrees in public health.

The supervised research by students of College of Health Sciences (CHS) at Qatar University (QU) has shed light on the progression and understanding of chronic diseases of high prevalence in Qatar and their relation to nutritional and public health practices. 
They presented their graduation projects recently, focusing on a wide range of health topics including development of disease, genetic mutation and nutritional and public health practices. 
Some of the research projects were also accepted for publication in prominent scientific journals such as the Journal of Metabolic Brain Disease.
Students of QU’s Biomedical Science Department offered new insights and findings in the area of disease development and genetic mutation. Among the findings was the reporting of a new strain of meningitis virus associated with non-polio paralysis for the first time in the Middle East and North Africa Region (Mena).
The study entitled “Epidemiological Surveillance and Molecular Epidemiology of Viral Meningitis in Qatar” was presented by Sara Jemmieh and Amira Kohil and showed that of the 2,261 patients suspected to have meningitis during the period between September 2018 and September 2019, only 7.8% were diagnosed with viral meningitis with higher prevalence in males. 
The research demonstrated that the most common viruses circulating in Qatar were Echovirus-3, Echovirus-11 and EV-C105. The project was supervised by Professor Asma al-Thani and Dr Hadi Yassin. 
In a study focusing on the effect of hyperglycaemia on embryonic heart development, students Moneera Nasir and Hissa al-Thani, supervised by Dr Marwan Abu-Madi and Dr Hussin Yalsin, found that hyperglycaemia altered the gene expression of KLF2, grossly changed the heart structure and affected blood flow velocity and ejection throughout the developing heart. 
Research in the field of molecular genetics focused on glucose-6-phosphate deficiency in Qatar as well as novel mutations that are believed to correlate with the pathogenicity of malignant hyperthermia in Qatar. The studies were done respectively by Shaza Malik and Roan Zaid; and the latter by Samia Ahmed and Mariam Radi. Both projects were supervised by Dr Mashael al-Shafi and utilised data from Qatar Genome Projects. 
Some of the research projects presented by students may serve as a platform for the potential development of therapeutic drugs, such as the projects supervised by Dr Hatem Zaid. An example is a study on the molecular mechanism behind the association between Gaucher disease, a rare inherited metabolic disorder and Parkinson’s disease, a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. 
This study was conducted by students Hend Eldous and Zainab Mahgoub. The outcome of the research is to be published in the Journal for Metabolic Brain Disease. The researchers studied a collection of missense mutations in GBA gene that is known to predispose patients with Gaucher’s disease to develop Parkinson’s. 
Another research with implications for disease cure is the study of Niazullah and Sadia Tasneem, on the effectiveness of using computational tools in variants classification of patients with Pompe disease, an autosomal recessive metabolic disorder which damages muscle and nerve cells throughout the body. 
Under the supervision of Dr Ibrahim Mustafa, students Nahjeha Rizwan and Waad Elkhair studied the effect of macromolecular iron chelator (Deferoxamine covalently attached to a starch backbone) on platelets in hopes of finding a manner to reduce the toxicity of iron chelators used in thalassaemia therapy. 
Sara Abdelghaney and Somaia Abouzaid studied the sero-prevelance of the Hepatitis E virus and compared between the detection methods of HEV antibodies using non-A-C- hepatitis samples of patients in Qatar. On the other hand, Hoda Najjar and Farah Alserr studied the toxicity effect of semiconductor photo catalyst compounds (HH-rGO/TiO2 and H2-rGO/TiO2) on zebrafish and found that the HH-rGO/TiO2 compound has a more severe toxic effect at high concentrations than H2-rGO/TiO2 did. The latter projects were supervised by Dr Gheyath Nasrallah.
Under the supervision of Dr Tahra El-Obeid, head of the Human Nutrition Department, students of the department presented 31 graduation projects that covered a wide range of topics in the different areas of nutrition and food safety. In the field of food science, Fatima Mohamed, Khloud Moustafa and Louijan Elouzi conducted a study on “Market Analysis and Health Implications of Heavy Metal Content in Rice Imported to Qatar.” The research project supervised by Dr Tahra demonstrated that the content of heavy metals, specifically arsenic, cadmium and lead was well within the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. The research outcome is a clear indication that Qatar continues to import high quality food commodities despite the unlawful siege imposed on Qatar. It also shows that the efforts deployed to ensure safety and health of Qataris and Qatar’s residents was not compromised. 
The “Association of Total Body Fat with Mineral Status Among Adults” was the subject of the research project presented by Alaa Shehada, Eman Abdelnasser and Reem Ali under the supervision of Dr Abdelhamid Kerkadi. The study showed that iron, calcium, sodium and magnesium levels decreased with an increase in BMI. Dr Abdelhamid also supervised the study conducted by Lana Abu Salah, Christina Lotfy and Dana Suleman entitled “A Comparison Between BMI, Waist Circumference and Waist to Height Ratio for Identifying Cardio Metabolic Risk in Adults,” indicating a positive correlation between waist circumference, waist to height ratio and cardiovascular disease biomarkers compared to other anthropometric indices. 
Associate Professor of Human Nutrition Dr Zumin Shi supervised three groups, the first of which included students Zainab Meftah, Amal Alawi and Souad Said who conducted a study on “The Association between Dietary Pattern and Respiratory Function.” The study findings demonstrated that dietary patterns focused on the consumption of sweet foods was associated positively with asthma among adults in Qatar. The students found that limiting the consumption of desserts, fast food and sweetened beverages could help prevent asthma.
The second group supervised by Dr Zumin included Sarah Kamal, Zainab Ahmed and Judi Elsettawy, who presented their study on “The Association between Iron Status and the Risk of Diabetes.” They found no association between other markers of iron and diabetes. However, iron supplementation was positively associated with T2DM in females but not in males. 
Lastly, Amna al-Ibrahim, Bushra Qamar, Sundus Fituri and Zoha Alkbar presented their research on “The Association between Soft Drink Consumption and Respiratory Function.” Their study found that soft drinks, especially diet soft drinks, had a positive correlation with asthma risk in the Qatari population. 
Two projects were supervised under Dr Vijay Ganji, one entitled “Development and Validation of a Food Frequency Questionnaire for the Assessment of Dietary Intake of Vitamin D for the Qatari population,” by Hoda Ali, Noor Moussa and AlShaimaa Sobei. This study showed that the use of the 24-hour tool to assess vitamin D intake overestimated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. Meanwhile, the second study conducted by Hanadi al-Shami, Shayma al-Bakri, Sarah Ajina and Zahra Jassim focused on “Relations between Vitamin D Concentrations and Body Composition and Bone Density in Post-Menopausal Qatari Women.” The research indicated that vitamin D was associated with adiposity measures that are linked to cardio metabolic diseases in postmenopausal women, however, this relationship was not linear.
Under the supervision of Dr Hiba Bawadi, students Merna Abowatfa and Sara al-Saeed presented their research topic entitled “Could Body Shape Index (ABSI) predict risk of diabetes in dependently of body mass index among the Qatari population?” They found that ABSI is significantly associated with T2DM in the Qatari population. The study also showed that ABSI used independently is a better predictor for the risk of T2DM than BMI. 
The last group of students Haleema Sarv, Alham Zadeh and Samar Hassan conducted research on “Age and Gender Sensitive Body Fat Parameters for Healthy Adults in Qatar.” They established Qatari adult’s specific cut-off values of Body Fat percentage for different age-gender groups that can be used as a reference for determining obesity-related metabolic risks. Furthermore, they found a strong relation between the percentage of body fat and the risk of metabolic diseases.
In QU’s Department of Public Health, eight students presented their research graduation projects utilising a mix of primary data collection and secondary analysis of existing databases in Qatar. Raneem AbdulRahman, Ameera Bareedh and Najla Faqira presented their project on “Oral Health Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices of Qatar University Students,” which was supervised by Dr Diana AlSayed Hasan, assistant professor. Dr Manar Elhassan, associate professor supervised the project of Najla al-Naimi, Amina Asheer and Asmaa AlShaikh on the “Prevalence and Determinants of Bottle Feeding in 
Qatar: Findings from Qatar 2012 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.” Dr Mohamed Fasih Alam’s  students, Dana al-Moutawa and Mashaal Kahoni studied the  association between consumption of tea and and coffee with add-ins (fat and sugar) and health status among Qatari adult population using the Qatar BioBank database. 
The Department of Public Health is the first of its kind in Qatar, offering bachelor and master degrees in public health. The bachelor programme offers two concentrations: health management and health education. The capstone course is an opportunity for students to  consolidate their learning through a  comprehensive research project experience.

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