I've reviewed several products for GIANTmicrobes in the past. GIANTmicrobes are stuffed animals that look like tiny microbes, only a million times their actual size. Each GIANTmicrobe comes with an image and information about the real microbe it represents. They want to be your number one source for all things microbial and their mission is to produce unique and interesting gifts for children and adults alike, whether for educational or medical purposes or for just plain entertainment. With all this in mind, I contacted GIANTmicrobes and asked if they'd like to donate a dozen microbes dolls for some gift bags I was making for my co-workers for Medical Transcription Week 2013 and they were generous enough to send me a dozen plush dolls. Since we're all so familiar with medical terminology (and this includes microbes), I thought adding some GIANTmicrobes to the gift bags would be a more fun (and safer) way for us to get a better look at them, but I'll tell you more about that next month.
First comes Chickenpox (Varicella-Zoster virus), which is a member of the Herpesviridae family of viruses, and a cousin of herpes and mononucleosis. Yuck! Getting chickenpox was once a childhood rite of passage and your parents would even throw "pox parties" but now the sky seems to be falling on this Varicella-Zoster virus thanks to an effective vaccine and it's now as rare as a hen's teeth. One shouldn't count their chickens before they hatch though because the vaccine is made from a weakened form of the live virus and if your're no longer a spring chicken, there is still a chance that the vaccine-virus will still get you in the form of shingles. Ouch! Regardless, this Giantmicrobe is as cute as a baby chicken and if know anyone with chickenpox, this is the perfect gift to give them while they're covered in red dots and itching uncontrollably.
Next comes Common Cold (rhinovirus). With over 250 different kinds of cold viruses, the rhinovirus is by far the most common with over 100 different varieties, which are responsible for almost 35% of colds. The rhinovirus loves low humidity because when the humidity is low, your nose dries out and is more susceptible to infection, which is why rhinovirus is particularly active during the fall and winter months. The rhinovirus can survive for 3 hours outside of the nose. And despite what you may think (and what your mother always told you and what you always tell your own kids), studies show that the cold doesn't cause a cold. Wash your hands often so you don't catch this rhinovirus but if you do, this little plush could always keep you company while you're resting and drinking plenty of fluids.
E. coli (Escherichia coli), which contains peritrichous flagella, or hairs which can sprout anywhere on its body, allowing it to twirl around, propelling it forward at the bacterial-equivalent speed of a torpedo. In addition to causing urinary and abdominal infections, certain strains of E. coli can cause food poisoning. Blah! And under ideal conditions, E. coli can divide every 20 minutes so a single cell can become over a billion in less than 10 hours. Meat usually gets contaminated with E. coli at the slaughterhouse but it still looks and smells normal, which is why you should always cook it thoroughly and opt for a well done piece versus a rare one. Yikes! And I like mine with a slightly pink center. E. coli is never welcome to any of my barbecues, unless in this cute plush form.
Ear Ache (Streptococcus pneumoniae), which must be everywhere because ear aches are the most common health ailments found in young children, the number one cause of ER admissions each year and the number two cause of regular doctor visits and ear aches are responsible for more antibiotic prescriptions than any other condition. Nearly every child gets at least one ear ache in their lifetime because their ear tubes are shorter and straighter than adult tubes. My ear tubes must still be shorter and straighter than most adults because I still get ear aches pretty often. Nearly 80% of ear aches clear up without the help of antibiotics and the public health authorities actually recommend against using antibiotics for at least a short waiting period in order to retard the evolution of far more dangerous strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae, as it can cause much more serious illnesses such as meningitis and pneumonia. I hope you heard that!
Fat Cell (Adipocyte). That average human body has 40 billion corpulent little cells whose primary job is to make you fat. They mean no harm though and are just trying to be helpful by providing warmth and protection for your body, even transporting essential vitamins such as A, D, E, and K throughout your body. Nevertheless, fat cells can damage your body if you're an overeater. It takes about 3,500 calories to make a pound of human fat. If you overeat by just 5%, you can put on a pound a month and on holidays when most of eat twice as much as we should, you can put on a pound a day. I'm all too familiar with fat cells but if I could only make myself eat a little less and exercise more, I could slim my fat cells down, thereby slimming myself down in the process. This plush fat cell is much cuter than the real thing though and I'd be more than happy to have this fat cell.
Hay Fever (grass pollen), which medically speaking is seasonal allergic rhinitis. Nearly a quarter of the population is affected by hay fever, especially this time of year when pollen particles seem to be everywhere and they float into the eyes, nose, and mouth, disturbing the body's sensitive immune system, causing congestion, swelling, itching, and watery eyes. Hay fever sufferers are also commonly subjected to a range of other afflictions such as eczema, asthma, migraine headaches, and depression. Early blooming trees get the spring hay fever season off to a raging start but the common grass pollen causes the most trouble and early 95% of hay fever sufferes react badly to grass pollens. Luckily, these allergies tend to decrease with age but not everyone in my household is that lucky because hay fever is a major complaint right now. Wonder if this cute little plush would help ease the suffering?
Kissing Disease (Epstein-Barr virus) aka mononucleosis or mono. Most people catch kissing disease at a very young age and it's not very contagious. Transmission requires close contact, such as kissing or sharing drinks. If the kissing disease catches you, you might get a sore throat, swollen lymph glands, and extreme malaise. In addition, you just might get an enlarged spleen and have to avoid strenuous activities, such as playing sports, to prevent it from rupturing. Most people get over kissing disease in a couple of weeks though it can take up to a year to finally kiss this virus goodbye. I've never met this long eyelash beauty, but if your teen would happen to catch kissing disease, this lovely plush lady would make the perfect gift, and the perfect reminder, to keep their lips to themselves.
Liver Cell (hepatocyte), which helps to keep you alive. Of all the major internal organs, the liver is the largest and it's the only one that can regenerate, from as little as 25% of its mass. The liver is the source of bile but has many other important, critical functions, such as protein synthesis, glycogen storage, hormone production, and detoxifying the blood stream. Liver failure is fatal and when the liver becomes compromised by infection or injury, you may have pale stools, dark urine, jaundiced skin, swollen ankles and feet, and frequent bruising. But with proper treatment, many liver conditions can be addressed. Whew! I sure didn't know my liver was that important. The liver cell sure is one unattractive guy but regardless, I think I'd like to keep him around.
Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgorferi), which is one of the most commonly reported tick-borne illnesses and it has been around for centuries, if not longer. Common symptoms include aches, fevers, fatigue, and the signature symptom of an expanding, bull's-eye rash, which typically spreads out from the site of the tick bite. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to arthritis, facial paralysis, meningitis, memory loss, and mood changes. As cute as he may be, I never want to be the target of Lyme disease.
Measles (Morbillivirus), also known as rubeola, is a well known and highly contagious virus. Its telltale symptoms are red spots that cover the body, often accompanied by a mild fever. Measles is in fact a respiratory disease that can lead to life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia and encephalitis. In 1963, scientists synthesized a vaccine and nearly all children in the developed world are inoculated against measles. However, in developing nations that lack widespread vaccination programs, measles remain a significant health threat. Fortunately, vaccination campaigns to vaccinate against measles are having a significant impact upon the incidence of measles worldwide.This plush may be cute, but fortunately for me, I'm vaccinated against the real thing.
Nerve Cell (neuron) . There are many different kinds of nerve cells. Motor neurons shock our muscles into action. Sensory neurons in our eyes and ears are stimulated by light and sound, on our nose and tongue by chemicals for smell and tastes, and on our skin by touch. The countless number of other interneurons transmit impulses within the central nervous system and the brain. However, they all work in a similar way. Most nerve cells are tiny but some are as long as your leg, extending all the way from the base of your spine to the tips of your toes. Unlike most cells, nerve cells cannot reproduce so if they get injured, loss of feeling and even paralysis can result. Also, abnormalities in the nerve cells can lead to conditions like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis. Reading all these facts make me nervous but I hear nerve cells are shockingly reliable. I guess I just need to relax!
White Blood Cell (leukocyte), which are your body's white knights, because when an enemy germ invades your body, white blood cells come to the rescue and fight to the death. There are several different kinds of leukocytes, each with their own special skill to help protect you. Neutrophils fight bacteria. B cells neutralize viruses, allowing T cells to move in for the kill. Monocytes digest microorganisms and their remains. Some leukocytes even try to track down any traitorous cancer cells that your body produces. I'm loving my white cells right about now. How about you?
Although, like I said, I've been a medical transcriptionist 11 years now and I'm familiar with a lot of these diseases, viruses, and cells, I learned a lot more that I didn't know just from the tags attached to these GIANTmicrobes. They are both fun and educational (and they are not just for kids) and I have a feeling they are going to be a hit with everyone when they open up their gift bags in a few weeks and hopefully they'll learn something new as well. You can connect with GIANTmicrobes on Twitter and Facebook and you can also sign up for their newsletter to receive general announcements, info on new product releases, special pricing discounts, and other important updates.
My favorite of these GIANTmicrobes just might be Nerve Cell. What about you, which is your favorite?