Anencephaly in Yakima
Many Questions, Few Answers
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Colorado School of Mines
Department of Developmental and Cell Biology
University of California, Irvine
This case study explores the recent (2010 - 2016) outbreak of neural tube defects, specifically anencephaly, in a rural three-county region of Washington state, particularly Yakima, WA. The case study focuses on the biological aspects of teratogens that may cause birth defects as well as epidemiological investigations of disease outbreaks. By the end of the case, students will have explored how our environment may have severe biological consequences on the human body during pregnancy and will have evaluated governmental and scientific investigations of a rare outbreak of birth defects. This clicker case study was developed for a non-majors biology course entitled "Human Development: Conception to Birth," although it could be taught in any introductory biology course for majors or non-majors during a unit on human reproductive biology or developmental biology. The case assumes that students have no prior knowledge of developmental biology or birth defects. The case study could also be adapted for upper-division courses by getting more in-depth on the specifics of teratogen mechanisms, the developmental biology and physiology of neural tube defects, or more complex epidemiological analyses.
- Describe the general classes of teratogens.
- Explain what neural tube defects are and how they can affect human development.
- Explain how neural tube defects may be prevented.
- Evaluate the anencephaly outbreak in Yakima, WA and propose what should be done next.
Keywordsanencephaly; human development; developmental biology; teratogens; neural tube defects; epidemiology; spina bifida; zika
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type MethodsClicker, Directed, Interrupted
Subject HeadingsBiology (General) Epidemiology Public Health Developmental Biology
Case teaching notes are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.
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.