Microbe Mission/Diseases List

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This page is for detailed information about each disease on the Microbe Mission Diseases List.

The event Microbe Mission specifies a list of diseases that may be tested on. The 2018 list may be found here. Lists from past years are linked in the Resources section.

Viral Diseases

Some different viruses

Viruses are nonliving obligate intracellular parasites that utilize either DNA or RNA as their genetic material. A virus usually has a proteinaceous capsid studded with different glycoproteins, which facilitate entry into a host cell. The capsid itself protects the genetic material of the virus.

Viruses are usually extremely species-specific, rarely infecting different species. Virus replication may be halted by antiviral medications such as aciclovir. Furthermore, vaccines, comprised of heat-killed or live attenuated viruses and/or antigens, may be injected into a host animal to provoke a humoral immune response. Antibodies produced will circulate and memory T/B cells proliferate, protecting the host from further infection.

Viruses are usually classified by the Baltimore Classification System, which separates viruses into groups by nucleic acid properties:

  • Type I viruses are double-stranded DNA viruses
  • Type II viruses are single-stranded DNA viruses
  • Type III viruses are double-stranded RNA viruses
  • Type IV viruses are positive-sense single-stranded RNA viruses
  • Type V viruses are negative-sense single-stranded RNA viruses
  • Type VI viruses are RNA retroviruses
  • Type VII viruses are DNA retroviruses

There are also several types of viruses classified by structure. Naked viruses are generally icosahedral in structure, having a capsid made of repeating protein units. Adenoviruses, which cause several foodborne diseases, are naked icosahedral viruses. Helical viruses also have a repeating capsid, but they are arranged into a helical structure. Many plant viruses, such as tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), the first virus discovered, are helical. Enveloped viruses are covered with a layer of phospholipid membrane, usually derived from their previous hosts. These viruses bud off from the membrane of animal cells. Complex viruses have a complex shape, such as bacteriophages.


Caused by an RNA retrovirus, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which emerged in the 1980s. HIV attacks CD4+ T-cells of the immune system, crippling its ability to defend against opportunistic infections. Several classes of retroviral medications may be given to patients, but no cure is currently available. Late-stage AIDS is marked by opportunistic infections and Kaposi's Sarcoma, a cancer caused by a human herpesvirus. AIDS is an STD, although blood transfusions and needle sharing also spreads the disease. The disease is generally diagnosed with Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). AIDS is the most severe stage of HIV.


  • Increassd infections
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

Although there is no cure, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can be used to keep HIV/AIDS under control.

In the United States, most people with HIV do not develop AIDS because of ART therapy.

Chicken Pox and Shingles

An image of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV)

Chicken Pox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), a herpesvirus. It is highly contagious and infectious.


  • blister-like rash
  • tiredness
  • itching
  • fever


  • Chicken Pox Vaccine


  • Over-the-counter medication
  • Doctor-prescribed treatments
  • For itching:
    • Colloidal oatmeal baths
    • Calamime lotion

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, can develop anytime after someone recovers from chicken pox. The risk for shingles increases as a person ages, which accounts for why it is mostly seen in the elderly.


  • rash
  • itching
  • chills
  • fever
  • pain
  • headache
  • upset stomach


  • shingles vaccination


  • antiviral medications
    • acyclovir
    • valacyclovir
    • famciclovir
  • analgesics (pain medicine)
  • For itching:
    • calamime lotion
    • wet compresses
    • colloidal oatmeal baths

Common Cold

The common cold, or rhinovirus, is a viral infection of the throat and nose. Caused by about 200 different types of rhinovirus, it makes medicine/vaccinations unable to develop. The disease tends to not be serious.


  • coughing
  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • watery eyes

There is no cure for the common cold, but there are many ways to obtain relief from the illness. These include:

  • drinking lots of fluids (mainly water)
  • over the counter medicine
  • cough drops or throat sprays
  • getting plenty of rest
  • gargling warm salt water

Dengue Fever

Dengue is a viral infection spread by mosquitoes. It is very rare in the United States. It causes flu-like illness and can occasionally develop into severe dengue, a potentially lethal condition.


  • Dengue
    • high fever (usually 104 degrees Fahrenheit/40 degrees Celsius)
    • rash
    • pain behind eyes
    • muscle/joint pain
    • vomiting
    • severe headache
    • swollen glands
    • naseau
  • Severe Dengue
    • bleeding gums
    • severe abdominal pain
    • persistent vomiting
    • blood in vomit
    • fatigue
    • restlessness
    • rapid breathing

Although there is no specific treatment for dengue, medical care from physicians and nurses experience with the disease can help save lives.

Prevention of dengue can be obtained from a dengue vaccine. It is not required in the United States and is only recommended for countries where dengue is widespread.

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever

Ebola is a severe and often fatal illness. It is caused by one of the filoviruses, a group notorious for causing highly lethal hemorrhagic fevers. It is transferred from wild animals to humans.

Transmission Electron Micrograph of the Ebola virus (EBOV)


  • First Symptoms
    • sore throat
    • fever
    • muscle pain
    • diarrhea
    • fatigue
  • Followed by
    • rash
    • symptoms of impaired liver/kidney function
    • vomiting
    • diarrhea
    • internal/external bleeding
  • Lab Findings
    • elevated liver enzymes
    • low white blood cell count

There is no proven treatment for Ebola. However, there are a few things someone may do to try and help. These include:

  • treatment of specific symptoms
  • supportive care rehydration


Hepatitis is an inflammation of the river. There are five main types of hepatitis virus, known as A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A and E are usually caused by contaminated food and water. Hepatitis B, C, and D are usually caused by contact with infected body fluids.

Five separate viruses, collectively known as the hepatoviruses. One of the viruses is a satellite virus. The viruses affect the liver, causing fever, vomiting, pains, and potential liver failure, resulting in jaundice. In addition, infection may lead to chronic liver cirrhosis and eventually hepatocarcinoma.



Commonly known as the flu. Most common symptoms include a fever, runny nose, sore throat, and aches. There are three types of influenza virus that can infect humans, known as Type A, Type B, and Type C.


Caused by an RNA virus known as the measles virus. Infects the respiratory system, causing coughing, runny nose, red eyes, and fever, in addition to the disease's characteristic rash.


Mumps is a viral and contagious infection. It is caused by a paramyxovirus, which is a member of the Rubulavirus family.


Commonly referred to as "Mono" or "Kissing Disease". The disease is spread via saliva, hence its nickname. The disease is typically short term. Caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).



Polio is a rare virus that is caused by the Poliovirus. In 1979, the disease had been eradicated in the US. Global efforts are being taken to eradicate the disease worldwide. The disease had only 36 cases in 2016. It is preventable by vaccine, but is incurable after infection. Polio is known to cause paralysis, which often leads to death.


Rabies is a rare disease spread to humans by the saliva of infected animals. Once symptoms appear, it is almost always lethal. These symptoms include spasms, fever, headache, and confusion. However, the disease is preventable by vaccination.


Also known as German Measles, rubella is a disease caused by the Rubella Virus. The disease causes the appearance of a distinctive rash on the skin. The disease is typically short term.



Eradicated in 1980, smallpox was an extremely infectious disease that caused a rash along the body. Although it was preventable with a vaccine, the vaccine had risky side effects which made it dangerous to use.

West Nile Virus

The West Nile Virus is a mosquito borne virus which causes no symptoms in the majority of cases. Less than 1% of cases are serious or fatal. The most common form of prevention is to prevent mosquito bites themselves.

Yellow Fever

Bacterial Diseases


Anthrax is a serious and rare infectious disease caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. People may become sick with anthrax if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products. It can be treated and prevented with antibiotics.


Botulism is a serious food borne illness caused by Clostridium Botulinum. It is found in canned foods and the spores can be found in honey, but the pores do not pose a threat to anyone with a developed immune system. The bacteria releases a toxin that affects the nervous system. The symptoms are weakness in the face and arms, nausea, and breathing problems. It can be prevented by properly preparing canned foods, not feeding honey to infants under a year, and heating foods to 85 degrees Celsius for at least five minutes. It can be treated with antitoxins.


Cholera is a bacterial infection spread in contaminated water. It can be very severe and dangerous if untreated. Cholera is caused by Vibrio Cholerae. It causes diarrhea and vomiting. This leads to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. It can be treated with oral rehydration therapy. To prevent cholera, filter and boil water, wash hands, and cook food thoroughly.


Dental Caries


Legionnaire's Disease

Lyme Disease

A rash caused by Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection spread by ticks carrying the pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease is named for the place where it originates: Lyme, Connecticut. The most common symptom is a rash originating from the tick bite that slowly spreads across the body. Other symptoms include fatigue, headache, and fever. Lyme Disease can be prevented by staying on trails when hiking, avoiding brushing against bushes and trees, and wearing long-sleeved shirts. Lyme Disease can be treated by taking antibiotics for one to four weeks.


MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant “Staphylococcus aureus”, is a type of bacteria that is resistant to many types of antibiotics. This infection is often healthcare-associated, so proper sanitation measure should be taken in hospitals. The fist symptoms are usually a small red bump on the skin that grows larger and more painful. There can also be a rash and fever. It can be treated by giving the patient antibiotics that work against MRSA.

Peptic Ulcer Disease


Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Strep throat



Tetanus is an infection that affects the muscles and nervous system, cussing them to spasm. It is caused by Clostridium Tetani. The bacteria enter the body through a cut or contact of a cut with an infect surface. It can be mild or severe, causing muscle spasms. It is preventable by vaccine.


Fungal Diseases

Athlete's Foot

Dutch Elm Disease


Ergotism is cause by eating the Claviceps Purpurea fungus which grows on rye and other wheats. It causes diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting followed by neurological symptoms like seizures, mania, convulsions, and itching. It can also cause gangrene. It can be prevented by avoiding ergot infections in grains with methods like checking grains for ergot, preventing the fungus from germinating, and chemicals.


Early Potato Blight



White Nose Syndrome

Protozoan & Algal Diseases


Malaria is a disease cause by multiple parasites. They are all spread by mosquitoes. It can cause flu-like symptoms in addition to vomiting, yellow skin, comas, seizures, and death. It can be treated with antimalarial drugs like quinine and artimisinins. It can be prevented by preventing mosquito bites with nets, sprays, avoiding going outside during dusk and dawn, etc.

Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning

Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) is an algal infection caused by eating contaminated shellfish. PSP is caused by dinoflagellates and is commonly associated with algal blooms. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and numbness, especially around the mouth.


Estuary Associated Syndrome



Prionic Diseases

Prions are one of the two classes of nonliving pathogens. Commonly found in animal neural tissues, proteinaceous infectious agents (prions) are misfolded proteins that induce misfolding in other normal versions of itself into the prion form. Because of the subtle differences between homologous proteins of different species, prionic diseases are usually species specific, with the exception of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which is able to spread from cattle to humans, causing Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). The function of normal prions are not completely understood, but it is believed they play a role in nerve bundle myelinization. Prions are especially dangerous because they are heat-stable, meaning sterilization requires extensive autoclaving and chemical degredation, which may be hard to achieve in the field. Prion diseases are fairly rare in humans, mainly passed on by genetic disorders. Prion diseases are progressively fatal, causing brain plaques that resemble Alzheimer's in postmortem autopsies. Treatment is limited, but several drugs and genetic treatments are being research.


This is a spongiform encephalopathy that occurs in sheep. It is so named because one of the symptoms is affected sheep scraping their fleece on rocks. Another symptom is excessive lip smacking. Because the prions don't degrade, they can easily infect other sheep. There are no cases of scrapie infecting humans, however.


This is a unique prion disease that occurs in humans, spread by cannibalism. In the past, the Fore tribes in Papua New Guinea engaged in funerary cannibalism as part of their culture. The body is allowed to partially decompose, and then be consumed. The brain was most commonly consumed by women, resulting in a higher mortality rate among females. Funerary cannibalism is no longer performed among the Fore, but it is hard to determine whether the disease has truly been eradicated due to the long incubation period, up to 50 years. There are three stages of the disease, initially causing tremors but eventually causing loss of motor abilities and eventually death.

Parasitic Worms

Parasitic worms, known as helminths, are multicellular eukaryotes. They are split into several classes: nematodes (roundworms), platyhelminthes (flatworms), cestodes (tapeworms), and trematodes (flukes). Most helminth infections are spread by the fecal-oral route, where contaminated water containing worm spores is consumed. The worms hatch and grow in the lower GI tract, where they lay their eggs and spores. Many worms cause Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), due to poor sanitation in tropical developing nations.

Anthelmintics are drugs with action against helminths. They include mebendazole, albendazole, and pyrantel palmoate. They work either by killing the worms, or paralyzing the worms, so that they drop out of the intestine in the stool. Many herbal remedies also show efficacy against helminths.







Archaeans are not known to cause any human diseases, but because they are mentioned in most Microbe Mission tests, an introduction will be given here.

Archaea comprise of the most ancient domain of life. They are prokaryotes with distinct eukaryotic traits. Archaeans are most known for certain extremophilic members, although most archaeans are mesophilic. They have no membrane-bound organelles, being prokaryotes, but certain aspects of their genetic material replication and translation are more eukaryotic.

A more detailed description can be found in the event page: Microbe Mission

Diseases from Past Years

Information about diseases that were on previous years' lists but have since been removed. Occasionally these are tested on by inexperienced or less dedicated event supervisors who mistakenly use past lists or reuse old questions indiscriminately.



2017 list
2012 list
2011 list