It can be difficult sometimes to decide which microbe to make next. “If you look at how many viruses and bacteria there are in the world, there are millions to choose from,” Klein says. That’s why they focus on microbes in the news. Since people are already talking about them, turning diseases like Covid or monkeypox into approachable toys helps raise awareness. Currently, both the original Covid-19 and the Omicron variant plushes are popular.
The designers are careful to get the shape of each microbe as accurate as possible. Then they add details like Covid’s protein spikes or E. coli’s flagellum, which are threadlike appendages that many bacteria have.
The toys are often used as a get-well gift or to commemorate diseases that friends or family have overcome. Ultimately, Klein says, GIANTmicrobes’ goal is to “bring awareness to health topics and make biology and life science more fun for everybody.” Learning about how diseases work is an important step in staying healthy. So the next time you catch a common cold, hopefully it’s a bright-blue stuffed one!