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The Ebola Wars: Advanced Edition

Derek Dube
Department of Biology
University of Saint Joseph
Linda M. Iadarola
Department of Biological Sciences
Quinnipiac University
Tracie M. Addy
Center for the Integration of Teaching, Learning and Scholarship
Lafayette College


This case study was written for upper level undergraduate and graduate students to review foundational aspects of virology and to examine Ebola virus infection in detail. Terry is a college student who travels to a West African clinic for the summer as a volunteer. While abroad, Terry comes into contact with a patient infected with the Ebola virus and later displays the signs and symptoms of an Ebola virus infection. Terry then learns about the general features of viruses and viral life cycles, as well as the most up to date information about features unique to the Ebola virus, the host cell response to Ebola virus infection, and treatment options. Students are expected to have a basic knowledge of cell biology, the central dogma, and viral life cycles.  Students are asked to think critically and apply information learned in the case to answer questions, create hypotheses, and design appropriate biological experiments. A more general version of the case, suitable for a general biology course, is also available on this site.


  • Explain the general features of viruses (structure and life cycle).
  • Describe major structural features of the Ebola virus.
  • Devise a therapeutic strategy that targets the Ebola virus to prevent infection.
  • Describe the mechanisms by which the Ebola virus enters and leaves the host cell, including the roles of the host cell and Ebola virus factors.
  • Describe the arrangement of the Ebola virus genome and how it plays a role in protein production and virus particle assembly.
  • Design an experiment to test the impact of a non-functional Ebola viral protein on the viral life cycle.
  • Devise a strategy to inhibit Ebola virus from exiting the cell.
  • Describe major therapies available.
  • Describe how the outbreak of the Ebola virus speaks to the nature of science and scientific discovery.


Viruses; Ebola virus; Ebola therapy; viral structure; infection; viral life cycle; disease; viral entry; host restriction factors; capsid; glycoproteins; immunotherapy; ZMapp

Educational Level

Undergraduate upper division, Graduate


PDF, PowerPoint

Type Methods

Directed, Interrupted



Subject Headings

Biology (General) Cell Biology Medicine (General) Microbiology Molecular Biology

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.

Supplemental Materials

As there is a high level of detail regarding the Ebola virus structure and lifecycle presented in this case study, instructors may wish to project the following visuals to guide student understanding and discussion.


Answer Key

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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • Viral Life Cycle hhmi/
    This short animation illustrates how delivery of a single virus to a cell allows the virus to infect the cell, replicate, and give rise to many progeny viruses. These viruses can then infect neighboring cells. Running time: 1:08 min. Produced by HHMI BioInteractive.
  • Click-and-Learn: Virus Explorer hhmi/
    Explore the similarities and differences of a variety of viruses including the Ebola virus by sorting them based on structure, genomic make-up, host range, transmission mechanism, and vaccine availability. Running time: Self-paced. Produced by HHMI BioInteractive.