Imagine you are a medical researcher in charge of investigating a new disease outbreak. In order to treat this new disease, doctors must understand more about this pathogen, the disease-causing agent. The pathogen could be one of three possibilities: a prokaryotic cell, a eukaryotic cell, or a virus. In general, viruses are infectious particles that require a host cell in order to reproduce. A basic virus is made of organized collections of protein and either DNA or RNA.
You have collected samples of diseased tissue from infected individuals, and you must determine if the pathogen is a prokaryote (Domain Bacteria or Archaea), or a eukaryote (Domain Eukarya), or a virus (not a cell at all)! This is an important distinction, as the treatment for this disease will be impacted by your results. How will you determine what type of pathogen you are studying?
1. List and describe some of the features that all cells have in common. Consider how you could use these features to determine whether the pathogen was a cell or a virus. (Remember that viruses are not cells!)
2. With this information, write a hypothesis that you could use to test whether the pathogen was a cell or a virus.
Remember that a hypothesis is a tentative explanation that suggests experimental predictions. You may share this hypothesis with your classmates through the discussion thread—see instructions.
3. If your experiments revealed the pathogen to be a virus, would this pathogen be considered “alive” by our definition? Explain your answer using the 3 components of cell theory.
4. Now, assume that your tests reveal that this pathogen is a type of cell.
Identify and describe features that differentiate eukaryotic cells of the domain Eukarya from prokaryotic cells in domains Bacteria and Archaea. What are some organelles that would typically be found in eukaryotic cells?
5. Develop a hypothesis you could use to determine whether this pathogen is a prokaryote or eukaryote.
You may alternatively share this hypothesis with your classmates through the discussion thread.
6. Visit CDC Current Outbreak List for US-based disease outbreaks. Choose a disease from among the currently listed outbreaks, and look up whether it is caused by a virus, bacteria, fungus, or other. Report your chosen disease and its classification. https://www.cdc.gov/outbreaks/index.html — Onions Salmonella
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