Shawnea Pagat, a senior at Fossil Ridge High School, sprinkled a tiny spoonful of Glo Germ powder into her palm and prepared to cough like a tuberculosis patient.
In a dark laboratory crowded with teenagers, Pagat then expelled two short, forceful bursts of air. Her cough spewed the specially formulated powder across a black tabletop illuminated by ultraviolet light, demonstrating the ease of spreading infectious disease.
“Alright!” cheered Angelo Izzo, the Colorado State TB researcher who hosted the exercise. “We’ve found patient zero.”
The simulation was one of 10 hands-on activities offered March 24 by the CSU Mycobacteria Research Laboratories for about 80 students from science classes at Fort Collins high schools. The students visited labs on the Foothills Campus to mark World TB Day, which annually raises awareness about the infectious lung disease tuberculosis and its devastating global impact.
Visiting students got a lab-level look at cutting-edge research to better understand, detect, prevent and cure TB. The respiratory disease, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, kills some 1.5 million people each year, mainly in developing countries. One-third of the world’s population is infected, according to the World Health Organization.
That alarming rate of infection, caused by airborne pathogens, didn’t surprise high-schoolers after the Izzo Lab’s demonstration.
“It shows how infectious TB can be, which is pretty crazy,” said Pagat, who was so amazed that she took two turns with the Glo Germ powder. “You don’t think of getting TB just walking through air.”
Chase Gulau, a junior at Polaris Expeditionary Learning School, was surprised at “how deadly and very contagious tuberculosis is. I had no idea it was such a problem.”
Bailyn Furrow, a junior at Rocky, enjoyed the hands-on labs. “I thought it was going to be just lectures, so I liked that we got to actually do things.”