Microbial Pathogenesis

This is an INTENSE paper and the most structured scientific paper my students have ever written to day. This paper is assigned to 10th grade Honors Biology (although it could most certainly be modified to regular Biology) students and would not be classified as a PBL activity but I still think it is extremely valuable for them.

*Note: There is a rubric that I use for grading with this paper, if you would like it please leave your email in the comments below

Microbial Pathogenesis Research Project (140 points)

  1. Introduction

Infectious diseases are important in all of our lives. In this project, you will focus attention on a specific infectious disease with the goal of determining the underlying cause of the disease; what the microbe does to our bodies, how we treat the disease, and how social, economic, and political factors affect our ability to deal with the disease.


Upon completion of this project, the successful student will demonstrate:

  1. a detailed understanding of the disease interaction between the human body and a pathogenic microbe;
  2. an ability to effectively communicate complex scientific information;
  3. effective personal time management, organization, and study skills;
  4. The specific learning objectives involve mastery of concepts presented during the course. They include demonstration of comprehension of the: history of our knowledge of the disease; causative agent of a disease; cellular (or acellular) anatomy of the pathogenic microbe; epidemiology; immune response; drug treatments or other medical interventions; sociological, economical, and/or political factors that influence our ability to deal with disease

Project Format

Disease Assignment

  1. You will choose the disease that you want to study from the list provided. If there is a disease that you are interested in that is not on the list, let me know and we can discuss it.
  2. You will perform a search of literature (books, magazines, news media, scientific journals, internet, etc) to learn about your disease. Project Products

1. Written Report – you will submit a written report that details all of the information about your disease including:
2. Cover Sheet – must have a title with the name of the disease and must have the names of all group members.
3. Text (main body of information) – maximum of six single-spaced pages, 12 point font. Your paper MUST describe all aspects of the disease that are itemized in the Project Content section. As much possible, the text should be written in your own words. Use direct quotes only when absolutely necessary (which means almost never).
4. Literature Cited- Any information that is not common knowledge (either directly quoted or paraphrased) must be credited to the proper source.
5. Final Report – must be submitted as a stapled set of pages.

6.Infectious Disease Fact Sheet (due on same day as the written report) –

  • Fact sheets may not exceed one single-sided page
  • Fact sheets must be completed using the attached template

Project Content

  1. What is the causative agent of the disease? Is it a bacterium, a virus, a prion, or a eukaryote?
  2. If it is a bacterium, what are the characteristics of the cell (Gram-reaction?, cell shape and arrangement? Metabolic capabilities)
  3. If it is a virus, what are its characteristics (DNA, positive-strand RNA, negative-strand RNA, or retrovirus? Enveloped or naked? How large is it? Does it form a provirus? Any unique characteristics of its multiplication cycle?)
  4. If it is a prion, what is a prion? Where in the body does it occur? What is the function of the normal – type protein?
  5. If it is eukaryotic, is it a fungus, an alga, a protozoan, a platyhelminth, or a nematode? Is it multicellular or unicellular? What is its life cycle?
  6. History: How long have we known about the disease?
  7. Describe the changes in our knowledge and attitudes toward the disease throughout history
  8. Epidemiology: Describe the prevalence and transmission of this disease.
  9. Where (in the world) is the disease prevalent? How many people are currently infected?
  10. What is the rate of new infections? What are the rates of morbidity and mortality?
  11. What is (are) the reservoir(s) of the pathogen? What is (are) the mode(s) of transmission?
  12. Pathology: Describe the pathogenic effects on cells, tissues, and organ systems.
  13. Where in the body (what tissues/organs/cells) does the pathogen affect?
  14. What damage does the pathogen inflict? How is this damage inflicted (is there direct mechanical damage? Is a toxin produced? Does the immune response cause damage?)?
  15. What is the time sequence of the disease (length of incubation, prodrome, illness, decline, and convalescence)? Are there sequalae from the disease?
  16. What are the major signs and symptoms?
  17. Response and Treatment
  18. Describe the activity of our immune system against the pathogen
  19. What types of medical treatments exist? Describe how these treatments affect progression of the disease.
  20. Describe prophylactic measures that can be taken to limit the risk of infection
  21. Socio-Politico-economic
  22. Describe any historic or present day social, economic, or political issues that either help or hinder us in limiting the spread of the disease.
  23. Suggest policies and practices that can be employed to help with limiting the spread of the disease. For each policy and practice, describe what will be needed (what we have to sacrifice) in order to properly implement the proposal.

 Infectious Disease Fact Sheet (to be filled out and handed in with the paper)

Name of disease   
Name of causative agent   
Type of microbe  Bacterium Eukaryote   Virus Provirus
If Bacterial:   
Gram – reaction   
Cell shape and arrangement   


Geographic prevalence
 Average rates of infection  


Main transmission mode(s)


Major tissues/organs affected

Major signs/symptoms




Main Treatment Methods

Typical length of treatment

Prophylactic measures






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