Questions for “One key change may have helped the coronavirus become a global menace”

greater horseshoe bats hanging from cave ceiling

Scientists don’t know exactly where the coronavirus came from. But a new study pinpoints a mutation that may have helped a bat coronavirus jump to humans. The greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, shown) is one bat species known to carry coronaviruses.

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To accompany “One key change may have helped the coronavirus become a global menace


Before Reading:

1.  Reports on coronavirus infections and risks have been all over the news since early 2020. Name as many facts as you can about these infections.

2.  What is a coronavirus? How does it get its name? What diseases other than COVID-19 do coronaviruses cause?

During Reading:

1.  What are mutations? How might a mutation have helped the coronavirus jump from animals to people?

2.  What does the new mutation that’s described in this story apparently do to help the virus survive?

3.  How did James Weger-Lucarelli and his team find the new mutation? How many things did they have to review to find it?

4.  What are amino acids and what is the role of alanine in the new study?

5.  How does the alanine change seem to affect the coronavirus’s ability to spread?

After Reading:

1.  Based on what you read in the story, what do you think is the biggest unanswered question about the T372A mutation? If you were a scientist, how would you go about trying to answer that?

2.  If the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 jumped from an animal, how might identifying what type of animal it was help public health officials? (Hint: How might their recommendations change if they learned the source of the virus were a pangolin versus a bat — or a mosquito?)