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Take a Deep Breath

A Case of Respiratory Illness

Co Authors:

Brianna S. Nelson
Biological Sciences
Texas Tech University

Kelsey N. Aguirre
Biological Sciences
Texas Tech University

Alee L. Adams
Department of Nutritional Sciences
Texas Tech University

Emily E. Brodbeck
Biological Sciences
Texas Tech University

Breanna N. Harris
Biological Sciences
Texas Tech University


This interrupted case study tells the story of “Callie,” a 26-year-old baker from San Francisco who runs a successful new cupcake business with her fiancé, Jeremey. For some time Callie has not felt well, experiencing fatigue, difficulty breathing, stress, and a persistent cough. When at last she visits her physician she is diagnosed with an active tuberculosis (TB) infection. The story provides a context for students to learn about TB infection, including how it impacts the lungs and gas exchange in the alveoli, and how one might contract and treat TB. Students will compare Callie’s symptoms to a list of known respiratory diseases and disorders to narrow down possible causes, walk through a visit with a physician, review blood test results, compare and contrast active vs. latent TB infection, and conclude by applying what they’ve learned about TB to gas exchange in the lung. The case is especially appropriate for use in an introductory anatomy, microbiology, pathophysiology, or general biology course.

  • Evaluate symptoms and expand knowledge of common respiratory illnesses.
  • Understand how tuberculosis is contracted and how it is treated.
  • Understand the differences between latent and active tuberculosis.
  • Describe how tuberculosis impacts gas exchange in the lungs.
  • Explain the basics of how Mycobacterium tuberculosis can be transmitted from person to person.
Keywords: Tuberculosis; respiration; gas exchange; alveoli; Fick’s Law; diffusion; TB; lung; Mycobacterium; latent TB; active TB;
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Physiology   Medicine (General)   Microbiology   Nursing   Public Health   Science (General)  
Date Posted: 5/4/2018
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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