Home Sci-Tech Sudan: Prof Haseeb – Godfather of Sudan’s Laboratory Medicine

Sudan: Prof Haseeb – Godfather of Sudan’s Laboratory Medicine

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Khartoum — Introducing the book “A Monograph on Biochemical Research in the Sudan” written by the Late Professor Mansour Ali Haseeb, Harry Hoogstraal stated in May 1973 that “Professor Mansour Haseeb has been more intimately associated than any other living person with adding to Sudanese biomedical knowledge and sharing vast experience with younger generations of physicians and scientists.

Just this month, these contributions and accomplishments were internationally applauded when the World Health Organization presented to Professor Haseeb the prestigious Dr A.T. Shousha Prize for significant contributions to public health problems in the Eastern Mediterranean Region”. Harry Hoogstraal is an American entomologist and parasitologist, who had been described as “the greatest authority on ticks and tickborn diseases who ever lived”.

While the manuscript was under print, Professor Haseeb passed away on Saturday 29th September 1973.

His sudden death was a great shock to all those who knew him and to the nation which he so faithfully served.

Forwarding the book, Professor (Microbiology) Elnazeer Dafaalla (1922-1982), President of the National Council for Research, described Professor Haseeb’s research work to be “a great contribution to science which had practical application in his own country” and also added “… We who have been near to him, who have particularly appreciated his services, both scientific and public and enjoyed his friendship with all its human attributes, shall always miss him.” (http://sudanow-magazine.net/page.php?subId=29&Id=1174).

Early life, Education and Biomedical Contributions

Professor Mansour Ali Haseeb was born in 1910 while his father was serving as the Judge of Algitaina in the White Nile State of Sudan. His grandfather, known as “scholar Haseeb”, lived in North Sudan near Berber town, the historical starting-point of the old caravan route across the Nubian Desert to the Red Sea at Suakin. He is a descendant of Majadhib clan who were known to be teachers and provided medicinal help, and mediated judicially and socially between different communities in various regions of Sudan. Haseeb had his primary schooling divided between Berber, Atbara and Port Sudan, later graduating from Kitchener School of Medicine in 1934 winning the first Prize in medicine; and shortly thereafter entered the medical service of his country.

In 1946 he left to the United Kingdom (UK) for postgraduate training in microbiology.

Returning from the UK, he devoted his life for the development of laboratory medicine and hygiene, and was the first Sudanese director of Stack Medical Research Laboratories (1952 – 1962).

He trained generations of doctors, technicians, laboratory assistants and other members of the medical profession. He also opened the door for Sudanese doctors to conduct original research work and contribute internationally in the field of applied medical science. His talents in research became evident early in his career when he managed to publish a case history in the British Medical Journal in June 1940. As he stated in his book, “Research work done in the Stack Medical Research Laboratories was of a practical nature and was usually initiated to solve a definite problem connected with endemic diseases. Adhoc research was carried out as and when required to reveal the cause of an epidemic or to help in control measures.”

An example for this was the research done during an outbreak of virulent smallpox in the Gezira cotton-growing area in Sudan in 1938 which involved collecting various material from different patients, and inoculating monkeys .

Following a series of experiments on small pox vaccine preparation, Dr. Haseeb and Dr E S Horgan developed a successful technique for the mass production of sufficient vaccine for Sudan .

In 1950, he reported on successful treatment of culture-proven brucellosis by using chloramphenicol in a 30-year-old Sudanese woman, who previously showed resistance to sulphonamide treatment. Since the patient was suckling a child, her milk was investigated and found to be negative for Brucella, and the child was not apparently infected.

A notable research for which he contributed crucially was made during February and March 1954. This covered the western and southern edge of the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, and the plain country to the west and as far south as the Gogrial area, totaling some 2,000 miles overland.

The aim was to search for evidence of yellow fever, and to evaluate the possible spread of yellow fever northward.

The study involved Baggara tribesmen, Nuba villages, and Dinka people, and blood was collected from humans (mainly children) and the primate population (baboons, monkeys, and galagos). Haseeb was vital in introducing the research team and securing the confidence of each local population.

This study was conducted under the auspices of the Ministry of Health of the Sudan, the Department of Virology of the United States Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 (NAMRU-3), Cairo, Egypt, and the Division of Medicine and Public Health, of the Rockefeller Foundation, New York, N.Y., USA.The expedition was documented in a film.

Other research topics included small pox, relapsing fever, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, heat exhaustion and poliomyelitis.

Professor Haseeb was a prolific biomedical researcher at a time when research had to be done single-minded. He contributed 40 publications as first author and many others as co-author.

His publications were spread over high profile medical periodicals including Nature, The Lancet, The British Medical Journal and Journal of Hygiene (current name Epidemiology and Infection, published since 1901).

He also published in local biomedical periodicals including Sudan Medical Journal which was started in 1953 as the official organ of the Sudan Medical Association to encourage research and disseminate medical scientific knowledge among doctors.

Professor Haseeb was one of the pioneer editors of the Sudan Medical Journal. He also contributed articles to another local journal: Al Hakeem.

Al Hakeem, which translates from Arabic as ‘the wise person’ or doctor, is the official journal of the medical students at the Faculty of Medicine, U of K. Established in the late 1950s, it continued to publish original articles mainly written by medical students, with some contribution from the teaching staff and health professionals.

Al Hakeem stands out as one of the earliest of its kind worldwide.

On Medical Education

From 1938 to 1962 Dr Haseeb served as part-time lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Khartoum, teaching microbiology, physiology, pathology, forensic medicine and community medicine.

In 1963 he became the first Sudanese to hold the chair of Microbiology and Parasitology and also the first Sudanese Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, U of K.

On the basis of his publications, he was made Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in 1965.

Four years later he was made Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

As Dean of the Faculty of Medicine (1963-1969), he nurtured strong connections with various educational and research centers in Europe and Africa.

These included the Royal Colleges of England, the Orthopaedic Centre at Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. As staff member of the Faculty of Medicine, U of K he acted in 1965 as Secretary of the Association of Medical Schools in Africa. In 1968 the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) held a meeting on Medical Education in Khartoum, in which the association for Medical Schools in the Middle East was established. Professor Mansour was elected to the membership of the executive committee.

Haseeb’s Contributions to public life

Professor Haseeb was an active loyal citizen in public life and served his country in various fields outside the medical profession. His great services in social fields, his contributions in local government and many other aspects of public life had a deep and an unforgettable effect. In all these activities he took positions of leadership and responsibility. He contributed significantly to the Sudanese Graduates’ Club both in its Executive Committee and in its pioneering efforts to establish national schools.

Last Achievements

In 1970 a National Council for Research (NCR) was established in Sudan by a Presidential Decree. In 1973 the constitution of the NCR was amended and it consisted of four sub-councils. Professor Haseeb was appointed Chairman of one of these: The Sudan Medical Research Council.