This Podcast Will Kill You

This Podcast Will Kill You

This podcast might not actually kill you, but it covers so many things that can. Each episode tackles a different disease, from its history, to its biology, and finally, how scared you need to be. Ecologists and epidemiologists Erin Welsh and Erin Allmann Updyke make infectious diseases acceptable fodder for dinner party conversation and provide the perfect cocktail recipe to match.

Episodes

August 8, 2022 4 min

When Emily Gellis hears rumors of people suffering horrible side effects from a trendy diet she springs into action. Armed with over a hundred thousand Instagram followers, Emily launches a social media crusade to expose F-Factor and its founder, Tanya Zuckerbrot. It’s the start of a feud that will attract trolls, lawyers, and, eventually, national media all because of fiber. From Wondery, this is a story about wealth, wellness, an...

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For what was originally going to be our 100th regular season episode, we wanted to turn the vaguely threatening title of our podcast on its head by exploring a topic that’s not about something that can kill you but rather the hows and whys of staying alive, forever. That’s right, this week we’re taking on the immense and amorphous concept of immortality, viewed primarily through the lens of biology. Why don’t humans or any other or...

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July 12, 2022 91 min

A little over two years into a pandemic, the last thing you probably want to see is headlines announcing yet another disease spreading across the globe. And yet, here we are. Beginning in May 2022, an increasing number of cases of monkeypox have been reported in many countries around the world, both in places where the monkeypox virus is known to occur as well as places where it had previously never been observed. And although the ...

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We’ve all been there: doubled over in pain as stomach cramps grip your guts; the panicked shuffle to the nearest bathroom; the waves of nausea and chills as you cry out loud, “oh no, what did I eat??”.  At the very least, food poisoning is a humbling experience, but at the worst, it can be absolutely deadly. In this episode, we take a deep dive into one group of pathogens commonly responsible for outbreaks of food-borne illness, th...

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June 14, 2022 74 min

It’s been years since our first (and, until now, only) vitamin-centric episode on scurvy, and we’re thrilled to be dipping our toes back into these nutritious waters with this episode on folate. Have you ever wondered why folate is important or what the difference is between folate and folic acid? Or maybe you’re curious about this vitamin’s discovery and the impact that fortification programs have had around the world. Look no fur...

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Our snake venom episode last week took us down some fascinating roads, from the pathophysiological effects of these compounds to the snake detection hypothesis and from the development of antivenom to the incidence of snakebite around the world today. But how did we make it through that whole episode without discussing how and why these venoms evolved in the first place? It’s because we were saving it for this one, where we enliste...

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How do you feel about snakes? Intrigued or terrified? In awe or creeped out? Of course, those aren’t the only options; the sight or thought of a snake can evoke many different emotions, but chances are indifference isn’t one of them. And is it any wonder? Some snakes can produce incredibly potent venoms that can seriously harm or even kill you, a characteristic that likely helped earn them their prominent role in many cultures and ...

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May 24, 2022 53 min

Our tapeworm episode last week mentioned the remarkable finding of tapeworm eggs in a 270 million-year old shark coprolite, that is, fossilized feces. And this certainly wasn’t the first time coprolites have come up on the podcast; we’ve referenced them several times before, mostly when discussing early histories of parasitic worms. But there is so much more to the world of coprolites than just which parasites were found and when. ...

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We can probably all agree that the thought of a tapeworm hiding out in your gut is not a pleasant one. Nor is the image of tapeworm larvae forming cysts in your muscles, organs, and even your brain. So listening to an entire episode on these parasitic worms? We understand why that may seem like a bit much. But trust us, the world of these worms is too fascinating and important to be missed. In this episode, we break down the biolog...

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The classic tale of epidemiology almost always begins with public health hero John Snow traipsing all over London to track down the source of the 1854 cholera epidemic, ultimately identified as the Broad Street Pump. While Snow’s famous endeavor earned him the title “the father of field epidemiology”, it turns out, as it so often does, that the real story is more complicated. In this bonus episode, we look beyond John Snow to explo...

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[CW: Firsthand account includes description of the death of an infant. Skip approximately first 3 min to avoid.]

What comes to mind when you hear the word tetanus? For many people, it’s probably the horrible thought of stepping on a rusty nail or the every-so-often Tdap booster you get at your doctor’s office. Thanks to the wide availability of this incredibly effective vaccine, not many of us have an image of what an infection with...

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Chlamydia trachomatis may have stolen the show in our last episode, but there are many other Chlamydiae that deserve some time under the spotlight. In this bonus episode, Dr. Martina Jelocnik (@MartinaJelocnik) and Dr. Sam Phillips (@Sam_Phillips_83) from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, join us to chat about some of these other Chlamydia species and the effects they have on wildlife and domest...

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April 19, 2022 88 min

With this episode, you’re getting much more than you probably bargained for, thanks to the quirks of Chlamydia trachomatis. This small but mighty bacterium can cause a number of different conditions throughout your body, most notably in your eyes and your genital tract, and the resulting infections, if left untreated, can lead to substantial and permanent damage. In this episode, we focus on the two most common forms of chlamydia i...

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[This episode is a re-release of Ep 27 Vaccines Part 2: Have you thanked your immune system lately?, originally published May 21, 2019]

Were you stoked about the history and biology of vaccines we covered in part 1, but left with even more questions? Were you really hoping to hear us talk about anti-vaccine sentiment and address misconceptions about vaccines in detail? Did you want even more expert guest insight?! Well then do we ha...

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[This episode is a re-release of Ep 26 Vaccines Part 1: Let's hear it for Maurice, originally published May 14, 2019]

The wait is finally over: this week we are very excited to bring you the episode we’ve been teasing for weeks: vaccines! This week and next (you don’t have to wait a full two weeks for the next episode!), we are presenting a two-part series on vaccines. In today’s episode, we dive deep into the biology of vaccine...

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March 29, 2022 46 min

While last week’s episode covered ample ground when it came to lightning strikes, there is so much more to the world of electricity left to explore. Fortunately, there’s a bonus episode for that! This week, we’re joined by a familiar voice, Dr. Timothy Jorgensen, whose previous appearance on the podcast (see Ep 53 Radiation: X-Ray Marks the Spot) helped to lay out the basics of radiation. In this bonus episode, Dr. Jorgensen, Profe...

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Lightning strikes have an aura of myth and legend around them, and their mystical reputation is inflated by stories that tell of people who, after having been hit by lightning, are suddenly able to speak a new language or play the piano expertly. However, such embellished stories often fail to distinguish truth from fiction and rarely acknowledge the devastating toll that getting struck by lightning can have on your body and mind. ...
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March 15, 2022 59 min

In last week’s episode, we explored the mysterious world of multiple sclerosis (MS) and the ongoing quest to determine what causes this autoimmune disease. While it’s likely that no one single factor leads to the development of MS, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has long been suspected to play a role in this and many other autoimmune diseases and has also been shown to be involved in several cancers. But why? How is this virus implic...

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Like many autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis so clearly illustrates how detection and description of a disease only gets us so far when it comes to prevention, treatment, and cure. In the over 150 years since the first comprehensive description of multiple sclerosis, a great deal of progress has been made to understand the what and how of this disease, but many mysteries still abound, especially surrounding the why. In this ep...
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We ended our myxoma virus episode on a bit of a cliffhanger, briefly alluding to the emergence of another deadly rabbit virus on the global scene. In this follow-up bonus episode, we take a closer look at this recent arrival, rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), and what its rapid spread around the world has meant for both invasive European rabbits in Australia as well as native rabbit species around the world. Dr. Robyn Hall (...

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