Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed receives Bill Gates, Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (R), at Al Shati Palace. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: The world needs countries like the UAE to lead the way in eradicating diseases that have plagued humanity for centuries, Bill Gates said in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Gates, speaking in his role as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “We need countries like the UAE to continue leading the way and supporting world health innovation.”

To that end, Gates announced the establishment of a new state-of-the-art institute in collaboration with His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

“The new institute will work with international partners and leverage Abu Dhabi’s unique talents and assets in the path towards eliminating infectious diseases,” Gates said.

For instance, it will translate research into actionable policy for the region, as well as explore malaria elimination strategies and tools.

The American business magnate and co-founder of tech giant Microsoft also highlighted the role of technological innovation towards stemming the tide of infectious diseases, and towards reducing the suffering posed to affected peoples.

In the fight against polio, the next disease marked for eradication, Gates said experts are now using genetic sequencing to track the virus in places where it is endemic, or where it occasionally surfaces.

“By tracking these strains, we can understand how long the virus strain has been circulating and trace its geographic movement, which tells us what kind of immunisation response is needed to wipe it out,” Gates explained.

New insecticides have also been developed to target infected mosquitoes that transmit malaria and have become resistant to other insecticides.

In addition, a new triple drug therapy has just been proven effective against lymphatic filariasis infections, which cause painful disfigurations and disability. The therapy has been found to be safe for widespread use, and good at suppressing transmissions while treating the infection.

“Just about 25 years ago, polio paralysed more than 350,000 children every year. This year however, there have only been 14 cases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, [a contained outbreak in Syria and surveillance efforts to ensure that there are no cases in northern Nigeria],” Gates said.

“Critical support from the UAE has also been integral to reaching this stage, including [support to help vaccinators reach remote, difficult-to-access parts of Pakistan], and we need [such commitment] to guarantee success against other infectious diseases,” he added.