Saudi students’ breakthrough in fight against deadly livestock disease

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Fahad Shaya Al-Mutib (L) and Abdullah Fahad Al-Dosari. (Supplied)
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The two Saudi researchers, Abdullah Fahad Al-Dosari (right) and Fahad Shaya Al-Mutib from Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz University. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 July 2022
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Saudi students’ breakthrough in fight against deadly livestock disease

  • Patent awarded after two-year study into treatment for foot-and-mouth

RIYADH: Two Saudi undergraduate students have been awarded a patent for a breakthrough discovery that could revolutionize the fight against foot-and-mouth disease, the highly contagious viral illness that can devastate livestock herds and ruin farmers.

Fahad Shaya Al-Mutib and Abdullah Fahad Al-Dosari from Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University were given the patent from the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property after discovering a chemical component isolated from the plant Peganum harmala, also known as wild rue or African rue, which is effective against the virus that causes the widely feared disease.




Dr. Ahmed  Suleiman Al Aliwi, Dean of the College of Pharmacy, Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University. (Supplied)

Al-Mutib told Arab News that Maged Saad Abdel-Kader, professor of pharmacognosy at Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University, had urged the two students to identify a research proposal whose content would include plants with a common application in Saudi Arabia.

He said that the idea for the study came to him since Peganum harmala is widely used by livestock owners to treat foot-and-mouth, known colloquially as Abu-Hjae’er disease, which can cause significant economic losses to livestock owners and breeders.

Immunization offers the only protection against the disease. If herds become infected, they are treated with antibiotics and antipyretics, which do not destroy the virus but merely target the symptoms.




Dr. Maged Saad Abdel-Kader, professor of Pharmacognosy at Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University. (Supplied)

Livestock owners have treated “cattle sickness” by soaking a large amount of Peganum harmala in water for at least a day, allowing the plant’s chemicals to dissolve, before it is given to cattle to drink.

The two students’ research to uncover the plant’s secret and identify its useful compounds began in 2019 under Abdel-Kader’s guidance.

Prof. Gamal Abdulhakim Soliman oversaw the partial analysis of the study in collaboration with Prof. Hesham Youssef Elzorba, vice dean of Cairo University’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

The research was carried out in stages, beginning with collecting the plant, then extracting and fragmenting it for different extracts, and finally sending it to the virology laboratory at the Armed Forces Hospital for Veterinary Medicine in Cairo.




A patent for "extraction and isolation of novel compound from Rhazya stricta active against Foot-and-mouth disease virus Picornavirus" to the two saudi researchers ِA Saudi researcher in Pharmacognosy Fahad Shaya Al-Mutib and Abdullah Fahad Al-Dosari. (Supplied)

Abdel-Kader said that the two students faced significant challenges, including finding a laboratory that was able to conduct experiments on the target virus.

The other challenge was time, since transferring samples to Egypt and waiting for results was a lengthy process. However, all went smoothly.

“I normally do not reject any student’s suggestion, but I always urge them to discuss their ideas with me,” he said. “The two most common reasons for rejecting a study topic are that the requisite experiments cannot be completed or that the same research has previously been conducted.”

Ahmed Suleiman Al-Aliwi, dean of the College of Pharmacy at Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University, said: “The university seeks to promote the research process by providing financial and research support through the development of research programs. It also encourages researchers to publish in international scientific journals and enables researchers to focus on applied research that the world requires.”

He said that the college’s interest in researchers manifests itself in a variety of ways, including “hosting periodic workshops and forming research groups of mutual interest to spark ideas and strengthen research.”

According to Al-Dosari, the biggest challenge facing the two researchers was the employment of several separation methods and the purifying process, “but the team was able to separate seven compounds.”

The structural makeup of the separated compounds was examined using spectroscopic and chemical methods, and what stood out was the presence of two compounds with a complicated structure.

“We used to work in the drug laboratory after school hours and sometimes until after midnight, including on the annual holiday, and in Ramadan for five to six hours a day during the fasting period,” Al-Dosari said.

The two students continued to do research until December 2020, more than five months after graduating.

The pure compounds were tested again on the foot-and-mouth virus. “The most effective was a novel chemical that had never been discovered before, neither from a natural nor synthetic source,” Al-Dosari said.

Working with Abdel-Kader “was a dream come true,” the two students agreed, as the Egyptian academic offered a wealth of experience in scientific research and inventions in the field of drugs.

Abdel-Kader said that he was eager for the students to master all stages of research conducted in the college’s laboratories — from extracting and purifying compounds to identifying their composition.

Al-Dosari said: “The opinion of friends and relatives, as well as their good comments, made us believe that what we had done was amazing and worth the effort and tiredness, and it undoubtedly gave us a moral boost for future creativity in the field of study.”

Al-Mutib added: “Thank God after two years of effort, we are reaping the rewards. We were graduate students who became researchers and inventors.”

Al-Dosari, who is currently working as a marketing representative for Hikma Pharmaceuticals, is a final-year master’s student in pharmacognosy at King Saud University and hopes to get a doctorate in pharmacognosy and join the department’s faculty.

Al-Mutib is a quality controller at Hikma — Jazeera Pharmaceutical Industries, and intends to pursue his graduate education in quality control and business management.

Abdel-Kader hopes to communicate with pharmaceutical companies to deliver the compound or extract as a medicine that can be marketed in the Kingdom and abroad.

Al-Aliwi said that the university’s goal is “to actively engage with stakeholders, including the celebration of joint cooperation agreements with relevant universities and entities to develop the research process and benefit from the human resource represented by distinguished researchers and faculty members to provide consultations and support from both sides to align with the Saudi vision, enhance investment and diversify economy.”


KSrelief continues health aid work around the globe

Updated 12 July 2024
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KSrelief continues health aid work around the globe

  • KSrelief delivered 2,000 healthcare kits to earthquake-affected Syrian refugees
  • In Taiz governorate, Yemen, the agency, through the Prosthetics and Rehabilitation Center Project, has helped 406 people who lost limbs

RIYADH: Saudi aid agency KSrelief continues to carry out health aid work around the world, delivering aid packages and performing medical procedures.

In Taiz governorate, Yemen, the agency, through the Prosthetics and Rehabilitation Center Project, has helped 406 people who lost limbs, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.
The project delivered 1,475 services in total, with 67 percent provided to males and 33 percent to females.

Among the beneficiaries, 11 percent were displaced people, and 89 percent were residents.

The services included the delivery, measurement and maintenance of prosthetic limbs, as well as physical therapy and specialist consultations.

The assistance is part of the ongoing humanitarian projects provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by KSrelief, to enhance the health sector’s capabilities and alleviate the Yemeni people’s suffering.

In Turkiye, the Saudi Sama’a Volunteer Program for Cochlear Implantation and Hearing Rehabilitation has completed work for earthquake victims in Reyhanli.

Also in Turkiye, KSrelief delivered 2,000 healthcare kits to earthquake-affected Syrian refugees in the Islahiye camp in Gaziantep, near Reyhanli. The program ran from June 30 to July 7.

During this time, the volunteer medical team from KSrelief performed cochlear implants to restore hearing and provided auditory rehabilitation therapy sessions for 84 children.

Manwhile, at the dialysis center in Banadir Hospital, Mogadishu, Somalia, 348 patients were treated in May, 163 of whom received 1,051 scheduled hemodialysis sessions and 12 emergency sessions. Outpatient clinic services and medical examinations were provided to 177 patients.

Of the patients, 62 percent were male, 38 percent were female, 2 percent were displaced people and 98 percent were residents.

 


Kingdom records 17% rise in passenger air travel in first half of 2024

Updated 12 July 2024
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Kingdom records 17% rise in passenger air travel in first half of 2024

  • Flights up 12% and airfreight 41%, says aviation authority
  • Saudi airports and airlines win top global services awards

RIYADH: The Kingdom has recorded a 17 percent rise in passenger air traffic over the first six months of 2024, to 62 million compared to 53 million in the same period last year, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.

There were 446,000 flights, marking a 12 percent increase compared to 399,000 flights during the first six months of 2023, the report said, citing statistics released by the General Authority of Civil Aviation.

Airfreight volume also went up, hitting 606,000 tonnes in the first six months of 2024, a 41 percent jump from 430,000 tonnes in the same period last year, GACA reported.

The Kingdom’s aviation sector has developed considerably over the past six months, including 16 Saudi Arabia airports obtaining the Airports Council International Airport Service Quality accreditation for 2024, the report also said.

Saudi Arabia’s airports are now ranked in the top 50 worldwide, it said, citing the evaluation results announced by Skytrax, the international air transport rating organization.

Three of the Kingdom’s international airports won awards from ratings agencies last year.

Madinah’s Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport was rated the best regional airport in the Middle East during the Skytrax World Airport Awards ceremony in Frankfurt, Germany.

King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah got the highest ratings on the Airports Council International list for 2023.

King Fahd International Airport in Dammam won three of the Saudi Airports Awards for 2023, including for the best facility in the 5 to 15 million passenger category, for the best customs inspection area, and best services for people with disabilities.

Meanwhile, national carrier Saudia won awards for being the most advanced airline in the world, and having the best economy class catering for 2024 in the Skytrax global ranking, the SPA noted.

Flynas was named fourth-best low-cost airline in the world for the second consecutive year and the first in the Middle East for the seventh consecutive year, according to Skytrax.

“All these achievements are part of the initiatives and programs launched by GACA, aiming to contribute to the development of the air transport industry locally, regionally, and internationally, in line with the National Strategy for the Civil Aviation Sector,” the SPA report stated.

“The strategy aims to make the aviation sector in the Kingdom the first in the Middle East by reaching 330 million passengers, increasing air freight capacity to 4.5 million tonnes, and raising air connectivity to reach 250 destinations to and from Saudi airports by 2030,” it added.

During the first half of this year, GACA launched several projects, including the development and expansion of Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah.

In addition, there was an expansion of Al-Ahsa International Airport, a new international departure terminal built at Taif International Airport, and self-driving taxi experience for the first time during the Hajj season.

Also, the first permit was awarded to use drones for cleaning buildings; a testing center for aviation personnel was launched; and the first phase of electronic gates was completed at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh.

This year, GACA won two gold awards for Best Customer Service and Best Public Service Center in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa region.

In addition, it won a Consumer Protection Association award for excellence in upholding passengers’ rights, and a certificate for flight safety and environmental sustainability.


Saudi Water Authority, World Bank sign cooperation agreement

Updated 11 July 2024
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Saudi Water Authority, World Bank sign cooperation agreement

RIYADH: The Saudi Water Authority, represented by its President Abdullah bin Ibrahim Al-Abdulkarim, signed a cooperation agreement with the World Bank as part of the Saudi Ministry of Finance’s technical cooperation program with the international institution.

The agreement aims to benefit from the authority’s expertise in developing the water sector and from its know-how in managing water resources by reducing operational costs.

It also aims to invest the accumulated research and engineering expertise to enhance water security through knowledge transfer.


Saudi authority is first in world to achieve ISO’s new AI management system certification

Updated 12 July 2024
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Saudi authority is first in world to achieve ISO’s new AI management system certification

  • The standard, introduced in December last year, is the first of its kind for Artificial Intelligence Management Systems
  • It provides guidance on addressing the challenges posed by AI, such as ethical values, transparency and continuous learning

RIYADH: The Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence has become the first organization in the world to achieve the International Standards Organization’s 42001:2023 certification for Artificial Intelligence Management Systems, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The ISO standard, which was introduced in December last year, is the first of its kind for AIMS. It provides guidance on addressing the challenges posed by AI, such as ethical values, transparency and continuous learning.

It also defines a systematic approach for managing risks and opportunities, and for achieving a balance between innovation and governance in organizations that adopt AI technologies in their work.

Abdullah Al-Ghamdi, the president of SDAIA, said he was proud of the accreditation and that it represents recognition of the implementation by the authority of appropriate standards and practices related to management of AI, and reflects Saudi Arabia’s growing reputation for excellence in the field of data and AI.

He added that the authority’s progress and successes would not be possible without the continuing support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is chairman of its board of directors.

This support enables the organization to serve as a national reference point for data and AI, he added, and to regulate, develop and manage the implementation of these technologies in ways that ensure they are properly governed and position Saudi Arabia as a leader in the field.


Patients receive hearts from donors in Saudi Arabia, UAE

Updated 11 July 2024
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Patients receive hearts from donors in Saudi Arabia, UAE

RIYADH: The King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre has given hope to three patients, two men and one girl, after it successfully transplanted hearts from donors in Riyadh, Jeddah and Abu Dhabi.

The journey of hope began with medical teams traveling from the hospital’s cardiac unit to Abu Dhabi and Jeddah to remove the hearts from two donors. The hearts were then transported by private jet to Riyadh.

A team from King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre then traveled to the King Abdulaziz Medical City to remove the third heart. It was transported by ambulance with the cooperation of the traffic department of the Riyadh region, which accelerated its arrival.

Traffic patrols escorting ambulances from King Khalid International Airport and King Abdulaziz Medical City to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre helped enable the transplant operations to take place within less than 24 hours.

One of the patients was a 9-year-old girl suffering from a weakened heart muscle. Her life had been saved by implanting an artificial pump last March.