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Disease Detectives (Grade 7 program)

Live show:

Different diseases have plagued humans and animals for millions of years. In this LIVE show from Purdue University, learn how scientists are like detectives when it comes to finding clues about the cause and prevention of disease. Meet Purdue scientists who treat pigs with Swine Flu, help solve a mysterious disease case using scientific inquiry, and take a look at how Purdue scientists are using cutting-edge technology to go inside our bodies and treat infection. This visit includes a stop at the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine to see what happens when a dog takes a turn in the dentist's office.

Program includes:

This program supports 2006 Indiana Academic Standards for science and the National Science Education Standards.

Indiana: 7.1, 7.2, 7.6, 7.7


  • A, Science as Inquiry
  • C, Life Science
  • F, Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
  • G, History and Nature of Science


Want to take a test drive? Here's a preview of what you'll get when you sign up for this Purdue zipTrip:

E-mail Questions

Photos of pigs.

Purdue zipTrips™ really get students thinking! They want to know more about science careers, animals, and scientific inquiry.

During the LIVE show, students can e-mail questions to the scientists (ziptrips@purdue.edu), and scientists answer some questions on the air. Then, after the show, we send out a list of FAQs for students and teachers to discuss.

Here is a sample of some e-mail questions received from student audience members during Disease Detectives:


Student: What is usually a high temperature for pigs?
Veterinarian Sandy Amass and Vet Tech Jessica Schneider: Normal temperature for pigs is 101.5°-102.5°F. Sometimes if pigs get excited, they can go up to 103.5°F. But if it is 104°F or more, we consider it a fever.

Student: How do you make medicines for a particular disease?
Veterinarian Sandy Amass and Vet Tech Jessica Schneider: Scientists research how to make the best medications. They are tested to see if they work, and then the government tests them further to make sure that they work and that they are safe for people and animals. It takes many years and millions of dollars to develop new medicines for animals and people.

Student: How did the myth start that a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human mouth?
Wellness Veterinarian Steve Thompson: Several studies in people were compared to a dog study looking at the diversity and number of types of bacteria in each species’ mouth. Likely this difference related to dogs having less diversity in their diet (carnivores) vs people having more food variety in our diet (omnivores – we eat plants and animals).

Photo of dog's head.

Student: Do cavities in dogs form the same way as in humans? Most don’t eat sugar!
Wellness Veterinarian Steve Thompson: Good question and comment on sugar. Cavities are rare because of less sugar, thus less bacteria that make the damaging enzymes and acids that erode our enamel. Cavities or “caries lesions” do sometimes occur in the flat molar surfaces in the back of a dog’s mouth. The few I’ve seen have been in larger breed dogs like Labrador and golden retrievers.

Student: What kinds of tools do you use to study ticks?
Entomologist John MacDonald: Scientists who study ticks in nature use a couple of tools in order to sample for them. A simple tool is the so-called tick-drag cloth that consists of a white cloth attached to a handle. The cloth is dragged through the sample site following a systematic plan, and then the ticks found on it are collected and later identified and counted. Another collection method uses dry ice in some sort of collecting chamber placed on the ground. Dry ice releases carbon dioxide, which is a strong attractant for ticks (it mimics the attractant that our body releases that serves to attract mosquitoes).

Student: What is your favorite insect?
Entomologist John MacDonald: My favorite insects are mosquitoes. There are many more species than most people realize, and they have very interesting and complex life histories. For example, did you know that the majority of mosquito species have eggs that survive in moist soil or even dry habitats for months to years just waiting for the site to fill up with water again after heavy rainfall and when streams overflow?