Dean of Girne American University (GAU) Faculty of Medicine Prof. Ali Ünyayar made important statements about coronavirus variants and mRNA vaccines.


In his statement, Prof. Ünyayar said that viruses always mutate, including the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which caused the Covid-19 pandemic. “While most genetic changes are harmless, some can make the mutant more adept, for example, at infecting cells or avoiding antibodies. Such ‘more viable’ variants can outpace other strains, thereby becoming the dominant source of infection. Over the past year, more infectious variants have emerged, each harboring a constellation of mutations. By far the most worrying is the so-called delta variant. It has spread to more than 100 countries since it was first reported in India in October, leading to increases in cases and hospitalizations, particularly where less than half of the adult population is fully vaccinated. "It is now the dominant species in many countries, including the UK and the US.”


Explaining what the variant is, Prof. Ali Ünyayar said, “During replication, a virus often undergoes genetic changes that can create viruses called variants. Some mutations weaken the virus; others may provide an advantage that allows it to proliferate. If the modifications produce a version with markedly different physical characteristics, the variant may be called a type. A variant that deviates significantly from its viral ancestors can be identified as a new lineage or branch in the evolutionary tree. However, in general discourse, the terms are often used interchangeably.”


Making a statement about the most worrying ones, Ünyayar said, "The World Health Organization has designated "variants of concern" to indicate strains that pose additional risks to global public health, "relevant variants" for those requiring close monitoring due to their emerging risks, and "further monitoring" for a variant. uses "warnings for". It has genetic features that indicate that it may pose a risk in the future. Evaluations may change depending on the developing pandemic. For example, three affinity types - epsilon, zeta and theta - were reclassified as alerts in early July. Derivatives of interest are assigned to letters from the Greek alphabet for identification. As of July 7, WHO has identified four in each category” and stated as follows:


 Alpha type

“This variant emerged in the UK in September 2020 and triggered a winter spike in cases that put the UK back on lockdown in January. Other countries, especially in Europe, followed the UK in reimposing movement restrictions. Alpha was previously the dominant strain in the US and has been reported in at least 173 countries, according to the WHO. The strain may pose a more serious threat to women. According to one analysis, female Covid patients are more likely to need intensive care and have a slightly higher chance of dying from an alpha infection than if they catch another variant. No such effect was found among men.”


Beta type

This case, which emerged in South Africa in August 2020, has led to a resurgence of the Covid cases that swept South Africa. It has been reported in at least 122 countries.


Gamma type

First seen in the Amazon city of Manaus in December 2020, this variant has contributed to an increase in cases that strain Brazil's healthcare system and lead to oxygen shortages. It has been reported in at least 74 countries.


Delta type

This fast-spreading variant has sparked a dramatic wave of Covid cases in India that have overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums and have since been found in 104 countries. It is estimated to be 55% more contagious than alpha and almost twice as contagious as the original strain, which began spreading worldwide in early 2020. Doctors in India have linked the delta to a wider array of Covid symptoms, including hearing impairment and early data from Scotland. It was found that Covid patients infected with Delta were hospitalized 1.8 times more often than those with alpha infection. Other evidence has found that delta tends to avoid antibody-based treatments, potentially increasing the risk of re-infection in people recovering from Covid caused by another strain.


Regarding how variants affect vaccines, Prof. Ünyayar said, “Scientists are mostly paying attention to mutations in the gene that encodes the spike protein, which plays a key role in the entry of the virus into cells and is targeted by vaccines. All four variants affect spike protein.”