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Rheumatic Heart Disease – Programmes and Research at the Aswan Heart Centre

03 April 2017
Aswan Heart Centre, Egypt

Rheumatic Heart Disease – Programmes and Research at the Aswan Heart Centre
The Aswan Heart Centre (AHC) was launched in 2009 to establish a centre of excellence to combat heart disease in Egypt. Located in Aswan in southern Egypt, the centre is linked to the Aswan General Teaching Hospital and is supported by the Magdi Yacoub Foundation.

The Aswan Heart Centre aims to prevent, control, and treat cardiovascular disease (CVD), ensuring availability of medical facilities and resources. It also offers research and training programs for young Egyptian doctors, nurses and scientists.
Rheumatic Heart Disease: from Molecules to the Global Community
The AHC is also involved in organizing and supporting various scientific events, such as conferences, workshops, and campaigns. One recent example was a four-day conference held in Cairo, Egypt, entitled ‘Rheumatic Heart Disease: from Molecules to the Global Community’.

Organized in partnership with the Pan-African Society of Cardiology (PASCAR), the conference included presentations and seminars on topics such as secondary prevention programmes, genetic and geographic determinants of rheumatic heart disease (RHD), cardiac surgery, and RHD vaccine development. Participants also had a chance to hear case study presentations from different countries such as Namibia, New Zealand and Egypt.
The first day of the conference was dedicated to evaluating the progress of the AU (African Union) Communiqué, a continental declaration endorsed by all African heads of state with a target of eliminating rheumatic fever and RHD on the African continent. . The second and the third days comprised of presentations ranging from epidemiology to RHD screening and management. The final day of the conference focused on existing global, regional and national initiatives tackling RHD. 

Address by Aswan Heart Centre Founder, Sir Magdi Yacoub
In a presentation delivered on the third day of the conference, Aswan Heart Centre Founder Professor Magdi Yacoub stressed the need for more cardiac centres of excellence, saying there should be “a major centre for every 3 million of population”.
Linking the establishment of the Centre to the fifth target of the AU Communiqué, Prof. Yacoub drew attention to the many activities conducted at the centre, such as integrated research and the training of physicians and nurses. He also underlined the values of the centre, placing particular emphasis on transparent administration and provision of care that is free, and available to all. Concluding his presentation, Prof. Yacoub described the lack of cardiac centres to treat RHD as “a major unmet need” that should be addressed.

Conference Abstracts and Presentations
A number of abstracts and presentations based on AHC research were also delivered at the conference. One such study – entitled Prevalence and Prognostic Value of Echocardiographic Screening for RHD in Aswan School Children – investigated the change in valvular abnormalities and disease progression among children with RHD. Initial screening involved 3062 schoolchildren in Aswan, aged 5 to 15 years. Of these, follow up was carried out for a period of 48-60 months for 72 children with definite or possible RHD, alongside a control group of 80 children.

Of the 72 children, 14 with RHD experienced disease progression while 30 had a regression. The study found that the boys and older children had lower rates of progression. It was also observed that functional defects of the valve were associated with higher risks of regression than were structural changes. Researchers therefore noted that disease progression and regression related to gender, age, and the type of initial valvular affection.

Ongoing research programs 
Current research programs at AHC include population studies such as the Rheumatic Heart Disease study, whose purpose is to investigate the progression of disease among patients with borderline and definite RHD. This program aims also to determine the characteristics of the disease based on genetic phenotyping of patients, echocardiographic features, immune response leading to the disease, compositional analysis of affected valves and streptococcal microbiology. Other research initiatives include the Inherited Heart Muscle Disease Registry and the Pulmonary Hypertension Registry. More information on ongoing research at the Aswan Heart Centre can be found here.

Find Out More
You can read more about the Aswan Heart Centre’s activities here. For in-depth summaries of the recent RHD conference in Cairo convened by AHC, please see the detailed review of each day on the RHD Action website.