Authorities in Turkey announced on Monday they discovered new variants of COVID-19 in the western coastal province of Izmir (Smyrna).
In a statement, the Izmir Medical Chamber and Association for Clinical Microbiology Expertise said that apart from the main mutations of the virus — the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants — new types were also discovered.
“Nucleic acid sequence analyses should be disseminated and the results should be shared openly with the public, in order to investigate the characteristics of these variants,” the Chamber said, according to the Ahval news site.
Reports say that in the analysis performed with PCR kits targeting three major mutations in the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants in Izmir, strains that do not carry all three mutations were detected.
The announcement fueled speculation that there is a Covid-19 variant exclusive to Turkey. As the country registered 18,857 new infections on Monday and 232 deaths, the most on a daily basis since late May, Turkish scientists are working on research to determine whether there is an exclusive Turkish variant.
Research in Turkey ongoing for possible new Covid variant
Daily Sabah reports that at the University in Istanbul, researchers are drafting Turkey’s genome map just for this purpose. So far, they have analyzed samples from 500 patients from across the country and they want to double these numbers.
Turkey, like the rest of the world, struggles with emerging variants like delta and delta plus, after more than one year since the beginning of the pandemic. Scientists suggest modifications in vaccination programs and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to correctly identify patients infected with variants.
Genome mapping will help the country to identify any new variant which might be affecting the Turkish public exclusively. Researchers hope to find answers in a few months. “The answers may change the way we fight against the pandemic, from its diagnosis to its treatment,” Dr. Faruk Berat Akçeşme told DHA on Monday.
He said that, along with finding a Turkey-exclusive variant, their work was seeking to map any potential variants from abroad that may exist in the country and remain unknown so far.
The number of cases of Covid-19 in Turkey have risen from less than 5,000 per day in early July, when the government eased movement restrictions on the population, to above 20,000 late last month, the highest levels since April.
Vaccination rates in Turkey are below the averages seen in Europe. The country has vaccinated some 35.5 million adults with two doses, according to Health Ministry data. Turkey has a population of around 85 million people, meaning the number equates to just 41.8 percent of citizens.