74 episodes

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

This Podcast Will Kill You Exactly Right

    • Life Sciences

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

    Ep 61 Typhoid: There's Something About Mary

    Ep 61 Typhoid: There's Something About Mary

    Your long wait is finally over - the season four premiere of This Podcast Will Kill You has arrived! And to mark the special occasion, we’re taking on a topic that is both classic TPWKY material as well as enormously relevant to current discussions in public health. Typhoid fever has been the cause of untold death and devastation throughout human history, and despite our advancements in both treatment and prevention of the disease, it continues to wreak havoc on millions of people around the world every year. This week, we take a trip through the terror of typhoid, starting by tracing the journey this bacterium makes through your body before taking a look at the long history of typhoid in human populations. And what story of typhoid would be complete without Typhoid Mary? We examine the plight of Mary Mallon in the context of today’s COVID-19 pandemic and discuss the tension that often arises between individual and community rights in matters of public health. Finally, we wrap things up with a look at the current status of typhoid fever around the world (spoilers: it’s pretty terrible) as well as some promising developments on the horizon (spoilers: okay, it might not all be bad!).

    We are so excited to be back with you this season, coming through your headphones with some casual chat about diseases throughout human history! As always, we are happy to hear from you about what you’d like us to cover, so send any suggestions through our website contact form. For your TPWKY merch needs, check out the sweet offerings on our shop's page. And for extra reading, you can find references for each episode on the episode page or check out our bookshop.org affiliate page or our Goodreads list.

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    • 1 hr 27 min
    Ep 60 Giving birth to "The Pill"

    Ep 60 Giving birth to "The Pill"

    Well, TPWKY listeners, it has been a heck of a year, and it’s not even over yet! But one thing has come to an end: our third season. Given the profound implications these next couple of months will have on the future of health and security in the United States, for our season finale we chose to cover a topic that’s near and dear to our hearts and minds: birth control. Have you ever thought to yourself, “I know this IUD/patch/pill prevents pregnancy, but how exactly does it do that?” or “How on earth did someone come up with this pill and then get it legalized?” If so, you’re in luck. In this episode, we walk through the basics of how the most common hormonal contraceptives work and then journey through the history of the various birth control movements in the United States. Finally, we wrap up with some of the latest developments in birth control technology (male hormonal contraceptives, anyone?) as well as the major legal decisions impacting access to birth control.

    We want to thank all of you fantastic listeners who have been with us through this wild year. You have made it all worth it! And fear not - we’ll be back with season 4 before you know it. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the first episode drop of the next season!

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    • 1 hr 33 min
    Ep 59 Thalidomide: Justice Delayed, Justice Denied

    Ep 59 Thalidomide: Justice Delayed, Justice Denied

    The story of thalidomide is often employed as a cautionary tale - why testing a drug’s safety during pregnancy is crucial or why it’s important to choose the right animal models. Or it’s framed as a success story for drug repurposing or regulation. But those tellings often gloss over the darker lesson of thalidomide: that for some companies, the bottom line is more important than human life. This week, we explore all elements of this infamous drug. We start by examining what we know about how thalidomide causes the severe congenital malformations it’s associated with, and then we dive into the deep, dark history of the drug, complete with a full cast of villains and heroes. Finally, we discuss thalidomide’s controversial comeback as a treatment for myeloma and complications of leprosy. Get out your angry hats for this one, people, because you’ll find yourself asking along with us, “why are humans the way we are?”

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    • 1 hr 32 min
    Ep 58 Guinea worm: (Almost) Ancient History

    Ep 58 Guinea worm: (Almost) Ancient History

    You’ve heard about smallpox, and you’ve learned about rinderpest. Now it’s time to meet what may be the third disease to ever be eradicated: dracunculiasis, also known as Guinea worm disease. In this episode, we take you through the absolutely remarkable life cycle of this not-so-little worm and the nitty gritty of the havoc it wreaks on a person’s body throughout its journey. Then get out your TPWKY bingo cards, because the history of Guinea worm includes not only mummies and historic papyri but also ancient Rome and fun etymology. To bring us up to speed on the current status of Guinea worm today is Sarah Yerian, Senior Associate Director of the Guinea Worm Eradication Program at the Carter Center. Sara discusses not only how the reduction in prevalence of dracunculiasis has been achieved but also the challenges that remain to finally relegate this worm to the history books.


    To learn more about the Guinea Worm Eradication Program at the Carter Center, check out the website or follow them on social media: @CarterCenter. You can also find the link to our firsthand account here.

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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Ep 57 Herpes: Stop the STIgma

    Ep 57 Herpes: Stop the STIgma

    The harm caused by herpes simplex viruses (HSV) 1 & 2 often arises not from the pathology of the viruses themselves but rather from the stigma and shame associated with a positive diagnosis. In this episode, we attempt to lay a clear foundation for understanding not only how these viruses work but also what occurred to change the perception of them from “innocuous infection” to “dreaded disease”. Starting us off with his firsthand account is the incredible Courtney Brame, founder and host of Something Positive for Positive People, a non-profit organization and podcast that aims to provide community support, healing resources, and educational discussions around positive HSV and other STI diagnoses as well as larger issues in sexuality and physical and mental health. We then dive into the meat of the episode, tackling such questions as “how do these viruses hide out in your body?”, “what kind of treatment is available?”, “where did these viruses even come from?” and “why is there such a huge amount of stigma and what can we do about it?”. To help us address this last question is our other fantastic guest, Dr. Ina Park, Associate Professor, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and Medical Consultant, Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We chat with Dr. Park about her new book, Strange Bedfellows, when to have “the talk” with your kids, and how we as individuals can break down some of the shame surrounding a positive STI diagnosis.

    To learn more about Something Positive for Positive People, head to the website spfpp.org or check out the SPFPP podcast wherever you get your podcasts! You can also follow Courtney on Instagram: @honmychest.

    And don’t forget to pre-order Dr. Ina Park’s upcoming book Strange Bedfellows: Adventures in the Science, History, and Surprising Secrets of STDs, expected February 2021. You can find out more about Dr. Park and her work on her website or by following her on Twitter: @InaParkMD or Facebook: Ina Park.

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    • 1 hr 25 min
    Ep 56 Sickle Cell Disease: Invisible Illness, Enduring Strength

    Ep 56 Sickle Cell Disease: Invisible Illness, Enduring Strength

    Neglected and ignored by the medical establishment throughout most of its history, sickle cell disease remains one of the most common (and commonly misunderstood) genetic conditions in the world. In this episode, we break down the myriad effects that one nucleotide substitution can have on the human body and discuss the basics of what it means when blood cells sickle. Continuing with the theme of the seen and unseen, we then turn to the history of sickle cell disease, a history of long-standing injustice and the unending fight to raise awareness and provide support for those impacted by the condition. And as always, we wrap up with a discussion on the current global status of sickle cell disease and some exciting new treatment options on the horizon. 

    We are so honored and thrilled to be joined this episode by not one, not two, but three incredible guests! You’ll hear first from Marsha Howe and Sharif Tusuubira, who share with us some of their firsthand experiences living with sickle cell disease. And then in our current status section, Dr. Megan Hochstrasser from the Innovative Genomics Institute walks us through the mind-blowing genome editing approaches being used to treat genetic conditions such as sickle cell disease.

    You can follow Marsha on her website for her non-profit organization and blog “My Life With Sickle Cell” as well as through her social media channels: Twitter: @MarshaMLWSC,  Instagram: @marsha_h181, Facebook: Marsha Howe. And make sure to check out B Positive Choir too! Twitter: @bpositivechoir and Instagram: @bpositivechoir.

    Learn more about Sharif Tusuubira’s amazing advocacy efforts on his website and through his social media channels: Twitter: @tkksharif, Instagram: @tkksharif, Facebook: Sharif Kiragga Tusuubira. You can also watch his 2017 talk in Washington, DC as a Mandela Washington Fellow.

    And to learn more about the futuristic-sounding research being done at the Innovative Genomics Institute (including using CRISPR to develop a faster, cheaper coronavirus test!), you can follow Megan (@thecrispress) and IGI (@igisci) on Twitter, or head to their website.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 1 hr 59 min

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