Monstrous Germs

Bacteria, viruses and other pathogens — invisible little organisms that make our lives miserable by causing diseases. Before the invention of microscopes, we did not know what they looked like. Now we know that both viruses and bacteria can have various geometrical forms that look vastly different from multicellular ogranisms.

However, fiction tends to largely ignore this. When viruses and bacteria need to make an appearance — for example, as part of a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot or in an encounter with Mega-Microbes — they will be portrayed instead as monstrous creatures. Whether humanoid, reptilian, insectoid or simply blob-like, they will have recognizable (although often mismatched) body parts such as jaws full of teeth, eyes (often in unusual numbers or at unusual places), limbs or tentacles, all of which would normally be found only on multicellular organisms. The reason for this is that Most Writers Are Human, and it's easier to portray germs similar to creatures that we immediately recognize as living and dangerous. If they are capable of talking, expect them to be Card Carrying Villains prone to Evil Gloating.

A subtrope to Artistic License – Biology. Often overlaps with its sister trope to Mega-Microbes — that one is about germs at the size comparable to humans, whereas this is about monster-like anatomical features found on them. Compare Seeker White Blood Cells, who will often engage in combat with these, and will often also get a similarly monstrous portrayal. Although the trope primarily covers biological microorganisms, computer viruses may get a similar portrayal in the case of a Contagious A.I.. Not to be confused with The Virus, which is a disease that turns its hosts into monsters. Also not to be confused with a person who is Terrified of Germs (although such a person will likely imagine germs as this trope).


  • Very common in advertisements for medicine and antibacterial cleaning products. Germs are portrayed as ugly monsters that the heroic product destroys.
    • In this commercial for the toilet cleaning product Toilet Duck, the germs are portrayed as green creatures hanging from the edge of the toilet, referred to as "grungies".
    • In this commercial for Lamisil, Digger the Dermatophyte is a very talkative creature who goes into Evil Gloating about how he digs under a person's nail.
    • In a variant of of this trope, commercials for Mucinex, a cold and flu medicine, portray the excess mucus that causes congestion as green, slimy creatures resembling anthropomorphic frogs.

Anime and Manga
  • Cells at Work! is about Anthropomorphic Personification applied to the human body at the cellular level. While the body cells all look human, bacterias are depicted more like monstrous, but humanoid aliens. Their designs is somewhat accurate, though, such as Staphylococcus bacteria having a skirt looking like a bunch of grapes. Viruses, on the other hand, are depicted as hats that attach themselves to cells and turn them to to basically zombies.

Comic Books
  • In the Don Rosa Scrooge McDuck comic "The Incredible Shrinking Tightwad", Scrooge and Donald are shrunk down to microscopic size due to the effects of a malfunctioning Shrink Ray, and are menaced by a horde of microbes, some of which have eyes, mouths or crab-like pincers.
  • Green Lantern: Before starting the Sinestro Corps War, Kyle Rayner's mother died by a strange and incurable disease, which makes him depressed, specially because he couldn't be there when she died. When he's kidnapped by Sinestro, he revealed that that the sentient virus Despotellis was responsible for the death of his mother, which also was part of Sinestro Corps. Broken and overcome with fear, Kyle is sent to the Central Battery of Qward where he is possessed by Parallax, becoming its new host. Despotellis is depicted as similar in shape to a bacteriophage, but with tentacle-like appendages.

  • In Osmosis Jones, germs are portrayed as humanoid creatures with mismatched body parts and often reptilian features. The Big Bad Thrax is a red-skinned humanoid with tentacle-like dreadlocks and a large burning claw on one of his hands. The Seeker White Blood Cells who fight against them look much more human-like apart from their blue skin.

  • In the children's book Germs, germs are portrayed as being able to talk and have technology and to seek to infect people.

Live-action TV
  • Doctor Who: The evil space virus in the episode "The Invisible Enemy" looks like the front end of a lobster. At first it is microscopic size and clones of the Doctor and Leela are shrunk to microscopic size to fight it. Then, after they escape and are enlarged to their proper size the virus follows them and is enlarged as well.

Video Games
  • Dr. Mario has the ever present trio of viruses, one blue, one red and one yellow Cephalothorax creature with eyes, mouth, hands and feet.
  • Mega Man X5: The Sigma Virus is a Contagious A.I. that flies around in form of purple foggy Sigma's head. The Zero Virus is a stronger, "mutated" variant of it that takes form of purple foggy Zero's original body.
  • Mega Man X6: The Nightmare Virus is a newer kind of AI virus that takes form of a Cyber Cyclops head and body made of double helices. They'll try to "infect" any rescuable Reploid in the levels; you have to rescue them before that happens.

Web Original
  • Sneeze Safe portrays germs as having faces.
  • In this video for kids, the germs are portrayed as having faces, arms and legs, and "power" that they get by infecting people. It also portrays bacteria and viruses as being almost equal.
  • The website and video Protect, Don't Infect has talking germs who purposely make people sick.

Western Animation
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Anatomy Park", which is essentially a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot in the body of a dying homeless man named Ruben, the various diseases are portrayed as hideous monsters who chase around the protagonists in an homage to Jurassic Park. Some at least show a resemblance to actual bacteria or viruses, but usually the wrong type (Tuberculosis is portrayed as orb-shaped when it should be rod-shaped, and E. coli, a bacterium, looks like a bacteriophage virus), and then there are the Hepatitis viruses that seem to be designed after the Rancor or the Cloverfield monster.
  • In the Goofy cartoon "Cold War", the cold virus is depicted as a white humanoid with a straw hat and a large red nose. Not particularly terrifying, but still pretty far from the actual appearance of a virus.
  • In Il était une fois... la vie, bacteria are portrayed as ugly blue humanoids and viruses as yellow, worm-like creatures, with faces that resemble the two human bully characters.
  • The Virus from The Amazing World of Gumball episode of the same name has flagella that are like limbs and give a humanoid build, three eyes, and his visible organelles act like a face.
  • Ozzy and Drix, similarly to its parent movie, portrays the various bacteria and viruses as monsters. For example, the Starter Villain Scarlet Fever looks like a red reptilian creature with a serpentine body, green eyes, sharp teeth, and appendages around its neck.
  • In the Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production episode "Computer Bugs", a computer virus that infects Bugs' computer looks like an orange Cephalothorax with Evil Eyebrows and four antennae. It brags and laughs as it destroys the software on the computer.