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MDR Tuberculosis

A Case Study for Non-Science Majors Focused on Social Justice Issues


Katayoun Chamany
Natural Sciences & Mathematics
Eugene Lang College/ New School University


In this case study on multi-drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis, students consider ways in which to preserve health as a human right without subjecting already marginalized communities susceptible to the disease to further discrimination. Students learn about the science behind TB diagnostics and current treatment protocols as well as the political and social history of TB outbreaks and the development of MDR TB. The case makes use of video clips, news stories, public health press releases and reports, and other secondary and primary literature. It can be used in a variety of courses that span the undergraduate and graduate level curriculum.


  • Understand how genetic variation arises through random changes (mutation) and recombination.
  • Explain the role that environmental conditions can play in the overall frequency of mutations in a population.
  • Explain temporal relationships among genetic variation, environmental change, natural selection, and evolution/adaptation.
  • Recognize that there are some instances in which these temporal relationships are slightly modified by environments capable of inducing the rate of random change.
  • Recognize that populations, not individuals, evolve.
  • Make connections between immune responses and the development of vaccines and diagnostics for disease.
  • Describe how political and social factors can influence people's rights in the context of public health.
  • Appreciate the relevance that evolution has on everyday life.


MDRTB; MDR TB; XDR TB; mycobacterium tuberculosis; drug resistant tuberculosis; multi-drug resistant; antibiotic resistance; evolution; mutation; natural selection; genetic variation; infectious disease

Topical Areas

Ethics, Policy issues, Social issues, Social justice issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, Graduate, General public & informal education



Type / Methods

Dilemma/Decision, Interrupted, Role-Play



Subject Headings

Public Health  |   Biology (General)  |   Medicine (General)  |   Evolutionary Biology  |   Nursing  |  

Date Posted


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

  • Threat of Tuberculosis
    PBS affiliates WGBH Educational Foundation and Clear Blue Sky Productions, Inc., have produced a powerful short (5 min 5 sec) video on multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis that instructiors interested in this case study may want to use to introduce the subject to their students.


Heide Hlawaty
CORE and Urban Studies
Metropolitan College of New York
New York, New York
The case works well with students who have access to the Internet outside of class. I adapted the study by working with the students in the computer lab while reviewing the video clips from PBS. You may want to check out the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. This site allows access to three datasets which can be searched by several variables, specifically with tuberculosis. This will allow students to check out the rates of tuberculosis by borough, SES, gender, etc. The website is: