This investigative case module was prepared as part of a BioQUEST faculty development workshop entitled Faculty Workshop: Implementing Investigative Cases and Technology in Biology and Chemistry at Center for Science Education in August 2004. The cases, resources, and implementation strategies were developed by participants for use with their own students. We invite you to adopt and adapt the following materials.

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is committed to the reform of undergraduate biology instruction through an emphasis on engaging students in realistic scientific practices. This approach is sometimes characterized as an inquiry driven approach and is captured in BioQUEST's three P's (problem-posing, problem-solving, and peer-persuasion). As part of this workshop groups of faculty were encouraged to initiate innovative curricular projects. We are sharing these works in progress in the hope that they will stimulate further exploration, collaboration and development. Please see the following links for additional information:

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Investigative Cases
The Case: Bug Mail

A prominent news anchor is sick after inhaling white powdery substance that was delivered to his office in an envelope. Within hours of inhaling the powder he was having difficulties breathing and developed flu-like symptoms. He was rushed to Columbia University Hospital where he is being treated with Cipro. As a preventive measure his office staff has also been treated with Cipro and his office has been shut down until further tests can be conducted.

In a potentially related incident, several cattle were found dead in an rural farming community of New York state. The carcasses were immensely bloated, and most have epistaxis (Extensive furr loss, Lesions on the udder, Bleeding from the nose). The farmer reported that most animals died within one to two hours after onset of symptoms.

The CDC and WHO is investigating the case.

Case Author:
Amrita Kumar Emory University:Center for Science Education

Case Analysis

Option: Include a know / need to know chart like the one below:

What do you know?
What do you need to know?

Learning Goals


The student will:

1. Read the case and identify the microorganism.

2. Develop tools to isolate and identify the organism.

3. Learn about genetic testing methods to identify the organism(s).

4. Learn about the life cycle of the micro-organisms.

5. Learn about the toxins and infectitious agents.

6. Learn about methods to combact the spread of the disease.

7. Identify potential ways to develop vaccines.



Investigations and Activities

Laboratory excercise:

1. To identify ideal growth conditions for growing the microorganism.

2. Use Gram negative and Gram positive stain to identify the micro-organism

3. To grow non-infectitious Bacillus subtilis on plates and monitor the developmental life cycle under the microscope.

4. To use PCR and RT-PCR for genetic testing



1. Emerging pathogens website:

2. Genome sequence website:

3. Non-infectitious Bacillus species for use in laboratory based excercises.

4. Developmental life cycle:

5. General information:

Students will usually obtain additional references or resources
to help answer or explore their questions.

Special Data Items

1. spores.jpg
2. spores2.jpg


Student Products

One page report on identification of the causative organism.

Lab Report on an closed ended excercise on bioinformactics.

Web page on various aspects of the disease: identification of the disease, vaccine development, disease erradication etc

Assessment and Evaluation Plan

1. Lab excercises and reports will asses students ability to conduct experiments and expose them to scientific writing

2. Closed ended case studies on bioinformatics will expose and assess students to computational biology and ability to assimilate genome data.

3. Web page presentations will access students on their ability to critically evaluate scientific data and make reccomendations.



Course name:
Emerging infectitious diseases
Likely sequence in syllabus:
Introduction to emerging infectitious diseases, Identification of bacteria, Developmental life-cycle of Bacillus anthrax, infectitious stages, vaccine development
Time during term:
Start of the course
One full semester
Majors and Graduate students
Students in course:
Collaborative elements:
Additional notes:



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