Michelle Leonard’s Human Infectious Disease class experienced a special treat this week; Mrs. Kathy McKone, a retired teacher from Bogue Chitto, Mississippi, brought The Wolbachia Project to MSMS. Mrs. McKone underwent training at Princeton University for the project, and started a satellite site for The Wolbachia Project in Mississippi. She now teaches other teachers how to perform the labs associated with the project, and how to teach those labs to their students themselves. The Wolbachi Project’s purpose is to bring real-world laboratory science to high school students. Wolbachia is a nearly ubiquitous bacterium found in many insects’ guts. Research about Wolbachia is particularly pressing because it can affect the ability of mosquitos to be vectors for disease, so it could be used to eliminate epidemics like Zika.  

During Mrs. McKone’s two-day visit, students spent one day learning about the project and the bacterium, and the other day performing the lab. During the lab, students examined different insects under microscopes. They then macerated, or crushed, the insects, so the DNA could be accessed. Following that, they manipulated the DNA so that pure DNA, or the supernatant, could be extracted. This is the DNA that will be amplified using Polymerase Chain Reaction, so the DNA can be read. Mrs. McKone will come for a follow-up visit next week so students can complete the lab by performing PCR on the DNA they extracted and purified this week.