Educational Toys: 3 Dust Mites in a Petri Dish by GIANTmicrobes/Amazon

Up to 40% of the world's population has been diagnosed with an allergic disease. The most prevalent allergy is to house dust mites (http://buff.ly/1jSF5Y6).

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 were developed primarily for educational, if not in some cases ironic, value.

Dust mites from GIANTmicrobesDust mites from GIANTmicrobes
3 Dust Mites in a Petri Dish by GIANTmicrobes/Amazon. These are cuter in person and one patient named them "Dusty, Rusty and Trusty." The toys are not exactly anatomically correct, of course. For example, dust mites do not have eyes or antennae. They have 8 legs and a mouth-like appendage. I use the plush toys below in most of my lectures and clinic visits related to indoor allergens, asthma, and allergic rhinitis. They make an unforgettable impressions and drive home the message that the dust mite is "real" and it is the most important indoor allergen.

Dust mites from GIANTmicrobesDust mites from GIANTmicrobes

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 order to appeal to the general public and present an air of lovability, many of the toys are brightly colored and furry. To further anthropomorphize them, they typically feature two eyes and in some cases other facial features.

The toys typically maintain the salient features of their biological counterparts, such as the presence of "surface glycoproteins, cilia, flagella", and overall morphology. Each toy has 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 ("minimicrobes"), 3 microbe toys packaged in a petri dish-style box, while 15-20" sizes, called "GIGANTICmicrobes!", have been released.

There are currently more than 40 microbes and other pathogens which have been represented in plush form.



Dust mite allergen avoidance. The main allergen is in the dust mite feces. Use 3 control measures for 3-6 months to see an effect on the allergy symptoms (click to enlarge the image).

References:

GIANTmicrobes. Wikipedia, 2010.
House dust mite sensitization in toddlers predicts wheeze at age 12 years (JACI, 2011).
Dust mite, more than foods, may be the major cause of allergic atopic dermatitis (http://goo.gl/48TgN).

Educational Toys for Allergy Clinics

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