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Initiative To Use Gum Arabic In Boosting Immunity Against Covid-19

Initiative To Use Gum Arabic In Boosting Immunity Against Covid-19

By: Rogia al-Shafee

KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - After they had tried the local products of garadh (acacia nilotica fruit), sesame oil and hibiscus as means for consolidating the body’s immunity against Covid 19, the Sudanese are now trying gum arabic to do the job.

With Covid-19 cases reaching 11385 yesterday, Sudan Gum Arabic Council is now leading an initiative to use this product in enhancing the body’s immune system, expecting clinical trials in this respect to begin shortly.

Council general secretary Tariq Alsheikh said 20 medical, pharmacological, agricultural, industrial and financial institutions have now joined hands with 50 scientists, consultants, researchers and physicians on the initiative.

They are waiting to the go-ahead signal from the Health Ministry to start the clinical trials at the virus quarantine centers.

The initiative takes five major axes: scientific study and researching, clinical trials, laboratory tests, medical production, logistic and technical support.

The Council counts very much on this initiative, hoping it would be given priority in clinical trials, simply because gum arabic is a safe food which was tried at all levels, said Alsheikh.

Moreover, Sudan is the world’s major producer of gum arabic which is a natural gum consisting of the hardened sap of two species of the acacia (sensu lato) tree, Acacia senegal (now known as Senegalia senegal) and Vachellia (Acacia seyal).

The gum is harvested commercially from wild trees, mostly in Sudan (80%) and throughout the Sahel, from Senegal to Somalia.

Gum arabic is a complex mixture of glycoproteins and polysaccharides predominantly consisting of arabinose and galactose. It is soluble in water, edible, and used primarily in the food industry and the soft-drink industry as a stabilizer.

Gum arabic is a key ingredient in traditional lithography and is used in printing, soft drinks, paint production, glue, cosmetics, and various industrial applications, including viscosity control in inks and in textile industries.

Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese depend on gum arabic as cash crop, whose trade is government-controlled.

Dr. Mohamed Suleiman Adam, a researcher and grower of the gum-producing acacia trees said Sudanese had used gum arabic for a long time to treat a lot of ailments, such as colon disorder, bone problems, kidney trouble as well as for slimming and enhancing the skin color.

The traditional tagg method

In western Sudan in particular, the talh tree (Acacia Seyal) gum arabic is used to cure wounds, burns, digestive system disorders and short- breath and other lung problems. It was found to have direct effect on colds, coughs.

Nowadays it is used for the treatment of coronavirus infection.

The two major American soft drinks producers Pepsi and CocaCola are the major importers of Sudanese gum arabic. It is understood that they use it as an additive to preserve their products.

Gum arabic was proved to enhance mouth and teeth health by fighting bacteria teeth black. It also reduces blood cholesterol and blood sugar and was found to be useful in the treatment of constipation.

Dr. Adam said much of Sudan’s gum arabic is obtained from the two sorts of acacia trees that grow in what is known as the Gum Arabic Belt, extending from Sudan’s border with Ethiopia in the east, westwards to the border with Chad.

The western region of Darfur was Sudan’s major gum arabic producer, but because of the belligerency in the region this product has dwindled too much. The mid-western region of Kordofan now produces 50% of Sudan’s gum arabic, with its city of Alboied being the major gum arabic market in Sudan.

Also according to Dr. Adam, Sudan now exports an annual 110,000 tons of gum arabic, 65,000 tons of which through official channels and the rest is smuggled through the wide borders, in particular through Egypt, Ethiopia and Chad.

An improved tagg method

A major impediment to the promotion of gum arabic exports is the absence of spray drying plants that are sure to stop raw gum exports and achieve an added value that can raise export revenue of this commodity by ten folds.

Gum arabic manufacturing and production face a lot of difficulties represented in poor roads, absence of electric power and drinking water for the farmers and workers, lack of health services in remote production zones and inadequate funding for the poor producers.

Producers and businesses involved in this product also complain from government levies, too many middlemen who raise the prices for exporters, frequent government interventions and the changing exchange rate of the national currency.

Sudan now has 23 gum arabic plants, 15 of them working at no more than 20 percent of their design capacity. All of these plants just produce gum granules, crystals and mechanical powder which all of them are tantamount to simply exporting this product in raw form. What is really feasible is to adopt spray drying that raises revenue ten folds, said Dr.Adam.

Socially, gum arabic represents a great national heritage, as a major occupation for the producers in 12 states of the country, distributed in west, east and central parts of the Sudan.

Producers around the country have devised a lot of terminology for the different stages of gum production.

For instance all Sudanese use the term ka’akool for ripe gum lump ready for harvest and also after it is harvested.

They use the term allaggait for gum collection from the trees. Here we speak about two collections of liggaits; the first collection is called albikry: the maiden. Then we have the tini, which is the second collection and altiltawi for the third and last collection a tree gives.

We also have alriyala. This is the first gum fluid that comes out of the tree after a cut is made on its bark.

This cutting is called altagg. In this case the farmer makes an incision in the bark to let the gum fluid come out. These cuts are made by a sharp instrument, preferably a small axe.

The altagg is made once the rainy season is over. By that time the farmer is sure the gum tree had had enough water and, accordingly, had developed a lot of gum inside.

After this cutting or tagg, the harvesters wait for about two weeks or more for all the gum fluid to come out, to begin collection.    

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