ChatGPT Gets a B+ in an Essay on Germ Theory From an Epidemiology Professor

It's not perfect, but it's perfectly scary.

René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH
Microbial Instincts
4 min readDec 16, 2022

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Screen capture of my request of ChatGPT to write a 500-word essay on germ theory.
All your essays belong to us.

I teach epidemiology to graduate students at two universities, and I’ve decided to forgo the essay as a measure of their understanding of the material. It’s not that I don’t have time to read essay after essay on the same topic. The problem is ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI) program that can write well.

I asked ChatGPT to write a 500-word essay on germ theory, and this is what it produced:

“Germ theory is a scientific concept that explains the cause of many infectious diseases. It proposes that microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, are responsible for these diseases and that they can be transmitted from one person to another or from animals to humans. Germ theory has revolutionized the way we understand and treat infectious diseases, and it has had a significant impact on public health.

The concept of germ theory has a long history. In the Middle Ages, people believed that diseases were caused by bad air or miasma. However, in the 19th century, scientists began to propose that microorganisms might be the cause of some diseases. In 1854, John Snow, a British physician, traced a cholera outbreak in London to a contaminated water supply, suggesting that…

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René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH
Microbial Instincts

DrPH in Epidemiology. Associate/JHBSPH. Adjunct/GMU. Epidemiologist. Father. Husband. (He/Him/His/El)