Nanobug cartoon characters teach infection prevention
By Mark Schwaninger
microbes, invisible to the human eye, have been in the news a lot
lately. Microbes like E. coli 0157 and salmonella, which recently
caused severe intestinal infections after finding their way into
spinach and peanut butter, now have corresponding cartoon characters
Combining science and imagination, Nancy
Haberstich, president and CEO of Lincoln-based Nanobugs Inc., and her
daughter, Hannah Yates, product manager, are banking on their nanobug
creations making it fun to learn about the transmission of infections
and how to prevent them.
"If you prevent infections, you don't
have to control them," said Haberstich, a registered nurse who has
worked 30 years in infection control and related international
Haberstich and Yates contracted with a caricature
artist, clinical microbiologist and other specialists to create 60
nanobug microbes that include bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Nanobugs are "morphologically correct," meaning they are shaped as they
appear under a microscope as rods, spheres, chains or clusters, Yates
said. Some nanobugs have a "force field" around them to show they are
antibiotic resistant. Those representing anaerobic bacteria, which do
not grow in oxygen, wear gas masks.
In December Haberstich and
Yates launched a Web site, wwwnanobugs.com, for children, parents,
teachers and health professionals. The site introduces the animated
Nanobugs, e-cards, activities and a virtual store with nanobug products
like T-shirts, temporary tattoos, trading cards, playing cards and
Haberstich's other daughter, Mary, is designing a nanobugs board game with her father.
learning about the different nanobugs, we can develop behaviors and
strategies to stay healthy - avoiding some nanobugs and enhancing
others," Haberstich said.
Some nanobugs, like Staphylococcus
Aureus, have two cartoon characters - one representing the friendly
microbe found on the skin, and the other representing the pathogenic
(disease-causing) microbe that turns into a "monster" under the skin.
daughter, Maisy, recently fell off her scooter and scraped her knees
while playing outside Grandma Haberstich's house. Haberstich picked up
Maisy in the nanobugs Volkswagen "ambulance," which has nanobug cartoon
characters on the doors. Maisy knew the quote on the Staph Aureus
trading card - "I'm OK on your skin, but don't let me get in!"
we washed and bandaged her scraped knees and talked about which
nanobugs could be involved, she wanted the pathogenic Staph Aureus
tattoo on her arm as her reward," Haberstich said.
is writing a microbiology manual for mothers featuring nanobugs in the
home and community, due to be published by iUniverse in December. She
is also coauthoring a chapter book for children ages 10-14 that will
introduce nanobugs and focus on solving epidemiological mysteries at a
Haberstich plans to launch a nanobugs campaign in
Japan in 2008, then move on to Liberia, West Africa, the United Kingdom
For more details about nanobug "microbes with attitude," see www.nanobugs.com.
This article was originally published in Star City Health.