Students write about a Dengue outbreak in Australia

22 Sep

It is the fourth week of the semester in San Francisco and the students in my class keep producing interesting content! This week we read a paper on a Dengue outbreak in Australia. One of the conclusions of the paper was that the outbreak was started by a person who traveled to Indonesia and brought back the virus to Australia. The students were a little surprised when they realized all the seemingly unlikely things that must have taken place for the epidemic to get started: the traveler must have been bitten by a dengue-infected mosquito in Indonesia, then they* traveled back to Australia, where they must have been bitten by a mosquito again, and this mosquito must then have survived long enough (the extrinsic incubation period of the virus) so that it could transmit the virus to other humans, and finally this mosquito must have actually bitten one or more other humans to transmit the virus to them.

*Edited on Sep 26 to use the gender neutral singular “they” in stead of s/he.

The students in my class are all master’s students in the Biology Department of SF State.

Here is some of the homework the students did this week:

Make a graphical abstract for the paper


Kadie-Ann Williams

Write two tweets about the paper


Steven Flammer

Who are the authors of the paper?

This article focuses on the epidemic of DENV-3 in Cairns Australia. Dr. Scott A. Ritchie works in the school of public health; tropical medicine and rehabilitative science at James Cook University, Cairns Queensland Australia. He leads a group dedicated to the study of vector-borne diseases. He is the principal investigator in the Eliminate Dengue Program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is involved with research projects ranging from global warming to monitoring the course of Dengue and other viral diseases. He has received numerous grants from different institutions to aid the control of mosquito related infections.

Dr. Andrew F. Van Hurk also focuses on Dengue virus. His research is related to molecular studies and phylogenetic studies of virus and has 83 publications. Dr. Hurk is a supervising scientist-entomology at the Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services in Australia.

Maricela Prado

Summarize the paper using only the 1000 most common words of the English language

When it is raining and warm outside, there are more small flying things with six legs that bite. They drink people’s blood for food. Sometimes, they have even tinier bad things living inside them. These tiny things can get into the blood if a person is bitten, make them sick, and even kill them. This happened in the land down under two times during 1998 and 2008. People studying this found out that the really tiny bad things needed to live in the flying things for a shorter time in 2008 than 1998 before they can move into people. It is very interesting to know that the time spent in the flying six legged thing can change how quickly and how many people can get sick. Even though the 1998 kind can get into people more often, the 2008 sort doesn’t have to wait as long in the flying thing in order to get into the blood so they end up having about the same chances of getting into people and making them sick. The people studying this also found out that the 2008 tiny bad thing probably came from a person who went to another land then came back with the tiny thing in their blood. They know this because they found that the 2008 tiny thing was more like other tiny things from the other lands than tiny things from the land down under from the past.

Roxanne Bantay

The Devil’s advocate

I felt that the introduction was lacking in background. It moves from broad to narrow too quickly, and left me with questions about Dengue and DALYs values. When discussing environmental conditions, the authors do not extrapolate on how certain conditions enhance Dengue outbreak. They also state that Figure 3 has 100% bootstrap support. From my limited knowledge of bootstrapping, this seems a little too good to be true. So every time they bootstrapped their data, it came out with the same tree every time? And some of the results sections like “Vector Competence Experiments” actually read more like methods than results. Overall I thought the paper didn’t have many ethical issues, and they made a good case for why their work was important, but the actual experiments, data, and relevant background were lacking in detail and made the paper boring.

Jennifer Gillbert


One Response to “Students write about a Dengue outbreak in Australia”


  1. 15 papers on contemporary evolution in human viruses | Being A Better Scientist - June 1, 2015

    […] students’ work can be read and seen here (about H1N5), here (polio outbreak), here (Dengue), here (Ebola), here (HIV in court), here (doing my own homework), here (the origin of […]

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