GIANTmicrobes

GIANTmicrobes

GIANTmicrobes is a toy company based in Stamford, CT. GIANTmicrobes manufactures plush toys resembling microbes, including a number of clinically important human pathogens. The toys, also referred to as GIANTmicrobes, are available via Internet and are also typically found at medical facilities, Toy stores, pharmacies and other health-related locations. Many are on display at MoMA. The toys were developed primarily for educational, if not in some cases ironic, value. They are found around the world and the tagging explaining the illness, pathogen or organism has been translated into over 8 languages for use in public awareness in North America and Europe.

Appearance

The appearance of each 5-7 inch long toy is based on electron micrographs of the real microbe, thus the toys represent an approximate million-fold magnification of the actual organisms in many cases. In order to appeal to the general public and present an air of lovability, some license is taken in the design of the toys in that they are brightly colored and furry. To further anthropomorphize them, they typically feature two eyes and in some cases other facial features that are in line with some aspect of the disease they represent.

Despite this license, the toys typically maintain the salient features of their biological cousins, such as the presence of surface glycoproteins, cilia, flagella, and overall morphology. To emphasize the basic faithfulness to the actual microbes, the toys possess a tag showing the micrograph upon which their appearance is based, the scientific nomenclature of the microbe, and some general clinical facts related to the disease it causes.

Recently, the toys have become available in miniature size, 3 microbe toys packaged in a petri dish-style box.

Represented microbes

There are currently a number of microbes which have been represented in plush form. These are grouped by the manufacturer into several categories, which are in cases somewhat arbitrary and do not always reflect the clinical features of the diseases caused by the organisms; indeed, some microbes such as the T4 bacteriophage and Martian Life do not represent causative agents of disease in humans at all. As of 2007, microbes are grouped into Health, Maladies, Calamities, Critters, Alimentaries, Exotics, Venereals, Aerials, Ambulatories, Menageries, Aquatics, Corporeals, and Tropicals. Furthermore, the company maintains a smaller grouping of toys listed as 'Professional,' which according to the company website are geared toward health professionals but which are of similar characteristics to the other lines.

Current roster

The list below indicates the scientific and common names of the current set of toys produced by the company as of 2007:

Viruses

*Rhinoviridiae (Cold)
*Orthomyxoviridae (Influenza)
*Epstein-Barr Virus (Mononucleosis)
*Human Immunodeficiency Virus (AIDS)
*Ebolavirus (Ebola)
*Poliovirus (Polio)
*HCV (Hepatitis C Virus)
*Rabies virus (Rabies)
*Herpes Simplex Virus-2; causative agent of genital herpes)
*Varicella (Chicken Pox)
*T4 Bacteriophage

Bacteria

*"Yersinia pestis" (Plague), also called the Black Death
*"Streptococcus pyogenes" (Flesh-Eating Bacteria)
*"Streptococcus pneumoniae" (Ear Ache)
*"Bordetella pertussis" (Cough), causes pertussis
*"Shigella dysenteriae" (Stomach Ache)
*"Helicobacter pylori" (Ulcer)
*"Propionibacterium acnes" (Pimple)
*"Porphyromonas gingivalis" (Bad Breath), causes gingivitis
*"Escherichia coli" possibly (E. coli), can cause food poisoning
*"Mycobacterium tuberculosis" (TB), causes tuberculosis
*"Salmonella typhimurium" (Salmonella)
*"Neisseria gonorrhoeae" (The Clap) (causes gonorrhea)
*"Treponema pallidum" (Syphilis)
*"Salmonella typhi" (Typhoid Fever)
*"Borrelia burgdorferi" (Lyme Disease)
*"Staphylococcus aureus" (both conventional Staph and MRSA are represented)
*"Chlamydia trachomatis" (Chlamydia)

Eukaryotic Organisms

*"Giardia lamblia", a protozoan which causes Giardiasis
*"Trichophyton mentagrophytes", a fungus, cause of athlete's foot
*"Trypanosoma brucei", causative agent of African sleeping sickness.
*"Saccharomyces cerevisiae", a species of yeast.
*"Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus", the Dust mite.
*"Anobium punctatum" (Bookworm)
*"Cimex lectularius" (Bedbug)
*"Pediculus capitis" (Louse)
*"Anabaena" (Algae)
*"Biddulphia" (Pond Scum)
*"Dirofilaria immitis" (Heartworm)
*"Sarcoptes scabiei" (Mange)
*"Noctiluca" (Noctiluca)
*Alexandrium tamarense (Red Tide)
*"Euphausia superba" (Krill)
*"Musca domestica" (House Fly)
*"Culex pipiens" (Mosquito)
*"Lucilia sericata" (A maggot)
*"Plasmodium falciparum" (Malaria)
*"Stachybotrys charatrum" (Toxic Mold)
*"Penicillum chrysogenum" (Penicillin)

Eukaryotic Tissues

*Leukocyte (White blood cell)
*Erythrocyte (Red blood cell)
*Adipocyte (Fat cell)
*Neuron (Brain Cell)

Prions

*Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease)

Others

*Martian Life, a representation of a biosignature found on the Martian meteorite ALH84001
*In 2006, for Germany only, a microbe shaped like a soccer ball with soccer ball spots was released. It was called "Fussball Fieber" (Translated "Soccer fever") for the soccer world cup.

Other products

GIANTmicrobes also offers a wide variety of merchandise items.

There is a soap dispenser based on the Rhinovirus toy and is marketing an antibacterial soap for the dispenser.

There are hats, shirts, and a coffee mug for sale that display the Common Cold, Sore Throat, The Flu, and Ulcer.

There are tattoos featuring the toys and there is also a keychain that displays the Common Cold.

There are petri dishes that contain 3 mini-GIANTmicrobes in a clear plastic case. All 57 current varieties are available in this new toy.

External links

* [http://www.giantmicrobes.com/ GIANTmicrobes website]
* [http://www.stortz.ca/ Stortz & Associates Inc. - Canadian Distributor]


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