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Challenge 2: How Do We Detect the Virus?

Learning Targets:

  • I can describe how to detect the coronavirus.
  • I can describe the characteristics of SARS-CoV-2.
  • I can identity different types of tests used to detect coronavirus and explain how they work.

Activity 1: Where would we expect to find the virus in someone who is infected?


Covid-19: An Illustrated Scientific Summary


Create & Share/Discuss

  • Diagram the life-cycle of SARS-CoV-2.

Write & Share/Discuss

  • List the cells in humans that SARS-CoV-2 infects and where in the body those cells are located.

Activity 2: What are the different types of tests that can detect the presence of coronavirus?

Watch & Read


Reflect & Write/Discuss

  • What are the differences between molecular, antigen, and antibody (serological) tests?
  • According to the article, how accurate are molecular and antigen tests?
  • How does “sample pooling” work?

Activity 3: “What is one way to collect a sample to test for SARS-CoV-2?”


What is it like to be tested for COVID-19?




  • List locations in the body where we might expect to find a lot of the virus.


  • Find or diagram a tool that might allow us to obtain a sample from one of the locations you listed.


  • Your results

Activity 4: Can we see the virus that causes COVID-19 in our sample?


  • Find the size of SARS-CoV-2.



  • Which of these can we easily see with the naked eye?
  • Rearrange the list of 10 items in the column from smallest to largest.
  • Add SARS-CoV-2 to your sequenced list in the appropriate position.


  • Compare your results with classmates.

Activity 5: How do different types of tests identify the virus?

Watch 2 videos


Reflect & Discuss

  • What parts of the virus does each test detect?
  • How do we measure the presence of the virus? How can we be sure the interpretation of the test is correct?
  • What are false negatives and false positives and what are their implications?

Activity 6: What components of the virus could we detect in a sample?

Watch 4 videos



Write & Discuss

  • List the major components of SARS-CoV-2 (i.e protein)?
  • Do our cells have these components? Which ones?
  • What, if any, are the differences between these components in our cells and those in coronavirus?
  • What is the difference between RNA in SARS-CoV-2 and RNA in our cells?


  • The structure of a RNA molecule and label the components


  • How RNA molecules differ from each other (e.g. structure, sequence)


  • Your work with classmates.

Activity 7: How could we detect a specific RNA molecule?


  • Use online resources to find molecules that would interact with the components of RNA.


  • Draw an interaction between these molecules and the components of RNA.


  • List the types of interactions and strengths.

Write & Share

  • What type of bond is between the nucleotides and RNA?
  • What is the relative strength of those bonds?
  • What is the strength of the base pair interaction between a single nucleotide and a RNA?
  • What is an example of a strong bonding pair?
  • How can we create a stronger association with the SARS-CoV-2 RNA?

Design & Share

  • Create an oligomer of several nucleotides that base pair to SARS-CoV-2 RNA How do we select which sequence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA to target?

Activity 8: How to detect viral protein in a sample?

Research: Use online resources to find answers.

  • Protein
    • Of what are proteins composed?
  • Amino acids
    • Describe amino acids: structure, charge, hydrophobicity, acidic/basic
    • Do the amino acids differ between SARS-CoV-2 and our cells?
  • How can you distinguish between SARS-CoV-2 proteins and our proteins?
    • Sequence?
    • Structure?
  • How does sequence determine structure?
  • How can we detect a protein with a specific 3-D structure?
  • How do proteins interact with each other?
    • 4˚ structure
    • Lock and key, induced fit


  • The proteins in our bodies whose job is to bind to specific proteins in other organisms.

Share & Discuss

  • Your responses.

Activity 9: How do we obtain RNA or protein from our sample?



  • Make a diagram that explains the procedure for purifying RNA from our samples

Share & Discuss

  • Provide and receive feedback on the models you and your class developed.


  • As a class, work together to incorporate ideas into the model that all can agree upon.