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22-Mar-04 2:00 PM  CST Print Friendly View  E-mail To A Friend  Generate XML export for this article

MICROBES: Invisible Invaders ... Amazing Allies

A traveling exhibition is taking children on an interactive journey through the hidden world of microbes. "Microbes: Invisible Invaders ... Amazing Allies" uncovers a mysterious universe of microscopic organisms--from those that sustain life on Earth to those that threaten our health and even our existence.

"Microbes: Invisible Invaders... Amazing Allies" made its U.S. debut in the spring of 1998 and is continuing on a five-year, 15-city tour through fall 2002.

The interactive, 5,000-square-foot exhibit reveals what microbes are (bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa--"germs" to most people), explores a history of infectious diseases and shows how researchers and individuals fight infection worldwide.

Kid-friendly technology highlights hands-on activities. In addition to interactive displays featuring virtual reality and 3-D animation, theatrical sets and special effects bring microbes to life.

The exhibit is sponsored by Pfizer Inc and produced by Clear Channel Exhibitions in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"This exhibit separates fact from fiction about microbes," said C.L. Clemente, Pfizer Inc senior vice president-corporate affairs. "By understanding how microbes can hurt us and also how they help us, families can make smarter choices about their health and learn about the strides we're making in research to stay one step ahead."

The smallest forms of life on Earth are microbes. Although microbes have existed for millions of years, possibly billions, their presence was not detected until the 17th Century. In 1683, Dutch merchant Antony van Leeuwenhoek, who made microscopes as a hobby, detected "wee animalcules" in scrapings from his teeth. More than 200 years would pass before scientists would establish the relationship between microbes and disease.

In 1928, when bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovered the germ-killing properties of the mold penicillium, he knew it could have profound medical value. But he couldn't make enough of the antibiotic he dubbed "penicillin" to test on even one human, so the discovery languished. During World War II researchers at a company named Pfizer perfected the technology to mass-produce penicillin.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a component of the NIH, infectious diseases remain the leading cause of death worldwide and the third leading killer of North Americans. More than 30 newly recognized infectious diseases and syndromes have emerged in the last two decades alone. Another challenge has been the development of drug-resistant strains of many common infections, making them increasingly difficult to treat and requiring ongoing medical research.

"As the statistics demonstrate, infectious diseases continue to be a serious problem throughout the world," said John R. La Montagne, Ph.D., director of NIAID's Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. "This exhibit will help people understand how medical research can contribute to the development of new treatments and vaccines. We hope the exhibit will also inspire the next generation of medical researchers."

Pfizer Inc discovers, develops, manufactures and markets leading prescription medicines, for humans and animals, and many of the world's best-known consumer products.

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID conducts and supports research to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as HIV disease and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, asthma and allergies. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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Libby D. Tilley
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Source: Libby D. Tilley, Clear Channel Exhibitions Website: http://www.clearchannelexhibitions.com
 
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