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Concept: Kuwait


An open question in the history of human migration is the identity of the earliest Eurasian populations that have left contemporary descendants. The Arabian Peninsula was the initial site of the out of Africa migrations that occurred between 125,000 - 60,000 years ago, leading to the hypothesis that the first Eurasian populations were established on the Peninsula and that contemporary indigenous Arabs are direct descendants of these ancient peoples. To assess this hypothesis, we sequenced the entire genomes of 104 unrelated natives of the Arabian Peninsula at high coverage, including 56 of indigenous Arab ancestry. The indigenous Arab genomes defined a cluster distinct from other ancestral groups and these genomes showed clear hallmarks of an ancient out of Africa bottleneck. Similar to other Middle Eastern populations, the indigenous Arabs had higher levels of Neanderthal admixture compared to Africans but had lower levels than Europeans and Asians. These levels of Neanderthal admixture are consistent with an early divergence of Arab ancestors after the out of Africa bottleneck but before the major Neanderthal ad-mixture events in Europe and other regions of Eurasia. When compared to worldwide populations sampled in the 1000 Genomes Project, while the indigenous Arabs had a signal of admixture with Europeans, they clustered in a basal, outgroup position to all 1000 Genomes non-Africans when considering pairwise similarity across the entire genome. These results place indigenous Arabs as the most distant relatives of all other contemporary non-Africans and identify these people as direct descendants of the first Eurasian populations established by the out of Africa migrations.

Concepts: Africa, Arabian Peninsula, United Arab Emirates, Middle East, Human migration, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq


We would like to draw attention of readers to an emerging smoking habit known as Dokha. Dokha is available in small glass pots and is smoked using a small pipe known as “Midwakh” (Figure 1). The Midwakh bowl is filled with 0.5-1 gm of Dokha for each use. Dokha is a regional tobacco mix of leaves, bark, and aromatic herbs. The word “Dokha” is an Arabic term for dizziness or lightheadedness. Dokha was traditionally smoked by the Bedouins and sailors in the Arabian Peninsula, particularly the Gulf area. Over the past few years, Dokha smoking has become popular among the adolescents, from the Middle East (John & Muttappallymyalil, 2013). This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Saudi Arabia, Arabian Peninsula, United Arab Emirates, Middle East, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq


The frequency of paediatric-onset multiple sclerosis (POMS) and the precise risk of secondary progression of disease are largely unknown in the Middle East. This cross-sectional cohort study assessed the risk and examined prognostic factors for time to onset of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) in a cohort of POMS patients.

Concepts: Multiple sclerosis, Saudi Arabia, Arabian Peninsula, Middle East, Asia, Western Asia, Kuwait, Near East


Significant headway has been made in the global fight against malaria in the past decade and as more countries enter the elimination phase, attention is now focused on identifying effective strategies to shrink the malaria map. Saudi Arabia experienced an outbreak of malaria in 1998, but is now on the brink of malaria elimination, with just 82 autochthonous cases reported in 2012. A review of published and grey literature was performed to identify the control strategies that have contributed to this achievement. The number of autochthonous malaria cases in Saudi Arabia decreased by 99.8% between 1998 and 2012. The initial steep decline in malaria cases coincided with a rapid scaling up of vector control measures. Incidence continued to be reported at low levels (between 0.01 and 0.1 per 1,000 of the population) until the adoption of artesunate plus sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine as first line treatment and the establishment of a regional partnership for a malaria-free Arabian Peninsula, both of which occurred in 2007. Since 2007, incidence has decreased by nearly an order of magnitude. Malaria incidence is now very low, but a high proportion of imported cases, continued potential for autochthonous transmission, and an increased proportion of cases attributable to Plasmodium vivax all present challenges to Saudi Arabia as they work toward elimination by 2015.

Concepts: Saudi Arabia, Arabian Peninsula, Riyadh, United Arab Emirates, Mecca, Kuwait, Yemen, Iraq


ABSTRACT The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was first documented in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in 2012 and, to date, has been identified in 180 cases with 43% mortality. In this study, we have determined the MERS-CoV evolutionary rate, documented genetic variants of the virus and their distribution throughout the Arabian peninsula, and identified the genome positions under positive selection, important features for monitoring adaptation of MERS-CoV to human transmission and for identifying the source of infections. Respiratory samples from confirmed KSA MERS cases from May to September 2013 were subjected to whole-genome deep sequencing, and 32 complete or partial sequences (20 were ≥99% complete, 7 were 50 to 94% complete, and 5 were 27 to 50% complete) were obtained, bringing the total available MERS-CoV genomic sequences to 65. An evolutionary rate of 1.12 × 10(-3) substitutions per site per year (95% credible interval [95% CI], 8.76 × 10(-4); 1.37 × 10(-3)) was estimated, bringing the time to most recent common ancestor to March 2012 (95% CI, December 2011; June 2012). Only one MERS-CoV codon, spike 1020, located in a domain required for cell entry, is under strong positive selection. Four KSA MERS-CoV phylogenetic clades were found, with 3 clades apparently no longer contributing to current cases. The size of the population infected with MERS-CoV showed a gradual increase to June 2013, followed by a decline, possibly due to increased surveillance and infection control measures combined with a basic reproduction number (R0) for the virus that is less than 1. IMPORTANCE MERS-CoV adaptation toward higher rates of sustained human-to-human transmission appears not to have occurred yet. While MERS-CoV transmission currently appears weak, careful monitoring of changes in MERS-CoV genomes and of the MERS epidemic should be maintained. The observation of phylogenetically related MERS-CoV in geographically diverse locations must be taken into account in efforts to identify the animal source and transmission of the virus.

Concepts: Saudi Arabia, Arabian Peninsula, Riyadh, United Arab Emirates, Middle East, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait


Multiple loci have been identified for coronary artery disease (CAD) by genome-wide association studies (GWAS), but no such studies on CAD incidence has been reported yet for any Middle Eastern population.

Concepts: Coronary artery disease, Heart, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Artery, Genome-wide association study, Jordan, Kuwait


Due to its pivotal geographical location and proximity to transcontinental migratory routes, Iran has played a key role in subsequent migrations, both prehistoric and historic, between Africa, Asia and Europe. To shed light on the genetic structure of the Iranian population as well as on the expansion patterns and population movements which affected this region, the complete mitochondrial genomes of 352 Iranians were obtained. All Iranian populations studied here exhibit similarly high diversity values comparable to the other groups from the Caucasus, Anatolia and Europe. The results of AMOVA and MDS analyses did not associate any regional and/or linguistic group of populations in the Anatolia/Caucasus and Iran region pointing to close genetic positions of Persians and Qashqais to each other and to Armenians, and Azeris from Iran to Georgians. By reconstructing the complete mtDNA phylogeny of haplogroups R2, N3, U1, U3, U5a1g, U7, H13, HV2, HV12, M5a and C5c we have found a previously unexplored genetic connection between the studied Iranian populations and the Arabian Peninsula, India, Near East and Europe, likely the result of both ancient and recent gene flow. Our results for Persians and Qashqais point to a continuous increase of the population sizes from ∼24 kya to the present, although the phase between 14-24 kya is thought to be hyperarid according to the Gulf Oasis model. Since this would have affected hunter-gatherer ranges and mobility patterns and forced them to increasingly rely on coastal resources, this transition can explain the human expansion across the Persian Gulf region.

Concepts: Arabian Peninsula, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Qatar, Persian Gulf, Kuwait, Iraq, Gulf of Oman


This is the first genetic anthropology study on Arabs in MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. The present meta-analysis included 100 populations from 36 Arab and non-Arab communities, comprising 16,006 individuals, and evaluates the genetic profile of Arabs using HLA class I (A, B) and class II (DRB1, DQB1) genes. A total of 56 Arab populations comprising 10,283 individuals were selected from several databases, and were compared with 44 Mediterranean, Asian, and sub-Saharan populations. The most frequent alleles in Arabs are A*01, A*02, B*35, B*51, DRB1*03:01, DRB1*07:01, DQB1*02:01, and DQB1*03:01, while DRB1*03:01-DQB1*02:01 and DRB1*07:01-DQB1*02:02 are the most frequent class II haplotypes. Dendrograms, correspondence analyses, genetic distances, and haplotype analysis indicate that Arabs could be stratified into four groups. The first consists of North Africans (Algerians, Tunisians, Moroccans, and Libyans), and the first Arabian Peninsula cluster (Saudis, Kuwaitis, and Yemenis), who appear to be related to Western Mediterraneans, including Iberians; this might be explained for a massive migration into these areas when Sahara underwent a relatively rapid desiccation, starting about 10,000 years BC. The second includes Levantine Arabs (Palestinians, Jordanians, Lebanese, and Syrians), along with Iraqi and Egyptians, who are related to Eastern Mediterraneans. The third comprises Sudanese and Comorians, who tend to cluster with Sub-Saharans. The fourth comprises the second Arabian Peninsula cluster, made up of Omanis, Emiratis, and Bahrainis. It is noteworthy that the two large minorities (Berbers and Kurds) are indigenous (autochthonous), and are not genetically different from “host” and neighboring populations. In conclusion, this study confirmed high genetic heterogeneity among present-day Arabs, and especially those of the Arabian Peninsula.

Concepts: Africa, North Africa, United Arab Emirates, Middle East, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Morocco


Human coronaviruses cause both upper and lower respiratory tract infections in humans. In 2012, a sixth human coronavirus (hCoV) was isolated from a patient presenting with severe respiratory illness. The 60-year-old man died as a result of renal and respiratory failure after admission to a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The aetiological agent was eventually identified as a coronavirus and designated Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). MERS-CoV has now been reported in more than 27 countries across the Middle East, Europe, North Africa and Asia. As of July 2017, 2040 MERS-CoV laboratory confirmed cases, resulting in 712 deaths, were reported globally, with a majority of these cases from the Arabian Peninsula. This review summarises the current understanding of MERS-CoV, with special reference to the (i) genome structure; (ii) clinical features; (iii) diagnosis of infection; and (iv) treatment and vaccine development.

Concepts: Saudi Arabia, Arabian Peninsula, Riyadh, United Arab Emirates, Middle East, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait


Oil spills are known to affect human health through the exposure of inherent hazardous chemicals such as para-phenols and volatile benzene. This study assessed the adverse health effects of the Gulf oil spill exposure in subjects participating in the clean-up activity along the coast of Louisiana.

Concepts: Health, Human, Petroleum, Personal life, Exxon Valdez oil spill, Oil spill, Kuwait