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BSL-4: Authorized Personnel Only

Nicole M. Anthony
Biological Sciences
Toronto District School Board


This case study is based on the 2014 Ebola epidemic that spread to multiple highly populated countries in West Africa, making it the largest and most devastating outbreak in the history of the virus. The storyline, inspired by a compilation of factual information, unfolds through a fictional narrative wherein students play the role of an infectious disease specialist in training to learn about the techniques used in the detection, diagnosis, and management of Ebola virus outbreaks. The story is presented as an interrupted "clicker case" that combines problem-based case teaching methods with simulated biological laboratory inquiry through the use of Case It, a free molecular biology software, along with the NCBI's online bioinformatics tools and databases. Students work in groups to collaboratively explore various biological and social aspects of this infectious disease outbreak. This case was developed for senior students at the secondary level and can be modified for use in an introductory biology, microbiology, or epidemiology course at the undergraduate level.


  • Differentiate between infectious diseases based on the analysis and integration of case information and diseases and conditions records.
  • Explain and evaluate the use of immunological and nucleic acid-based techniques such as ELISA and PCR tests, as well as conduct multiple sequence alignments and interpret phylogenetic trees in the management of infectious disease outbreaks.
  • Correctly identify an infectious disease using a computerized molecular biology simulation that performs techniques involving DNA and protein sequences, such as ELISA and PCR tests, and through conducting multiple sequence alignments and interpreting phylogenetic trees.
  • Explain the impact, both positive and negative, of scientific technological advances intended to detect, control, and prevent the spread of illness caused by infectious diseases.
  • Explain the impact of social, biological, and environmental factors on the control and spread of illness caused by infectious diseases.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the nature of the Ebola virus, the disease it causes, and ways of preventing and controlling its spread.
  • Analyze and explain ethical issues associated with infectious disease epidemics.
  • Compare and contrast the impact of infectious disease outbreaks in developed and developing countries.
  • Organize, analyze, and explain data collected from experimental inquiry.


Ebola; PCR; polymerase chain reaction; multiple sequence alignments; febrile illness; virus; bioinformatics; ELISA; enzyme linked immunosorbent assay; Case It; filovirus; infectious disease; BLAST; experimental design; Africa

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division


PDF, PowerPoint

Type Methods

Analysis (Issues), Clicker, Dilemma/Decision, Laboratory, Problem-Based Learning, Role-Play



Subject Headings

Bioinformatics Biology (General) Biotechnology Evolutionary Biology Microbiology Molecular Biology Public Health

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Supplemental Materials

The two files below are required in order to run the case as intended. The first is a PowerPoint presentation containing clicker questions; the second is a zipped set of Case It text files (see teaching notes for details).


Answer Key

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