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Hunting the Ebola Reservoir Host

Co Authors:

Allison Black
Life Sciences
Quest University Canada

Annie Prud’homme-Genereux
Continuing Studies and Executive Education
Capilano University


This one-hour introduction to the study of infectious diseases uses recent research on the Ebola reservoir host to motivate students to consider the characteristics of a viral host species and how it can be identified. Presented in the form of an interrupted case, the fictional storyline follows the efforts of Dr. Mombutubwa as he tries to manage an Ebola outbreak in his African village. Students are asked to consider the kinds of social, biological, and environmental factors that may lead to disease spread, and then are presented with data they must analyze and interpret in order to determine the likelihood that a reservoir host has been identified.  The case was inspired by a compilation of the research conducted on several Ebola outbreaks rather than a specific event. It is intended for college-level biology students with an interest in infectious disease or epidemiology but could be adapted for use in a senior high school biology course.

  • Explain some of the factors that can lead to disease spread in a population.
  • Describe what makes an organism suitable as a reservoir species for a virus.
  • Extract potentially relevant information from a context-rich situation or laboratory data.
  • Analyze how social, biological, and environmental settings can influence disease spread.
  • Understand concepts of group-specific risk to infection
Keywords: Ebola; virus; filovirus; infectious disease; hemorrhagic illness; disease transmission; reservoir host; reservoir species; epidemic; immunohistochemistry; virology; bats; apes; Africa
Topical Area: Scientific method
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Microbiology   Epidemiology   Medicine (General)   Public Health  
Date Posted: 11/15/2012
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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