68 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
    • 4.9, 531 Ratings

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 55 Rocky Mountain spotted fever: The tick must be destroyed!

    Ep 55 Rocky Mountain spotted fever: The tick must be destroyed!

    Despite what its name might suggest, the story of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) takes us far beyond the jagged, snow-capped peaks of the western range. From the Bitterroot Valley to southeastern Brazil, it is a story filled with equal parts tragedy and discovery, as the researchers desperate for answers fall victim to the very disease they seek to prevent. In this episode, we dive into the dark past of this deadly disease, first exploring the biology of the teeny tiny organism that wreaks such devastation. As always, we follow that up by tracing the history surrounding this much-feared infection and its role in the creation of one of the world’s leading infectious disease laboratories. Finally, we end with the current status of RMSF, which (spoilers) isn’t as bleak as you might think, thanks once again to antibiotics. Tune in to hear why we’ve been excited to research this episode since the very beginning of the podcast.

    • 1 hr 47 min
    Ep 54 Wake Up and Smell the Caffeine

    Ep 54 Wake Up and Smell the Caffeine

    Are you one of the billions of people around the world who starts your day with a freshly brewed and deliciously aromatic cup of coffee or tea or maybe even hot chocolate? Or are you caffeine-avoidant, looking on at your coffee-addicted friends with confusion and maybe even pity? In either case, this episode is for you. We are joined by the one and only Matt Candeias of In Defense of Plants to tackle the world’s most consumed psychoactive drug: caffeine. First we get a taste of the massive history of the most popular caffeine-containing beverages, then we trace what exactly caffeine does in your body after that first scrumptious sip. And finally, we explore what role this compound has for those many, many plants that produce it. We hope you find this episode as stimulating as its subject!

    • 1 hr 23 min
    Ep 53 Radiation: X-Ray Marks the Spot

    Ep 53 Radiation: X-Ray Marks the Spot

    “I have discovered something interesting, but I do not know whether or not my observations are correct.” With these words, Wilhelm Röntgen introduced the world to an invisible power, a power which would in turn be used to both harm and heal. This week, we take a tour of the wide world of radiation, starting with a primer on what radiation actually is and how it works, courtesy of Dr. Timothy Jorgensen, Associate Professor of Radiation Medicine and Director of the Health Physics and Radiation Protection Graduate Program, Georgetown University. Then we discuss the nitty gritty on what radiation does to you on a cellular level. We follow that up with a stroll through some of the major moments in the history of radiation - from X-rays to atomic bombs and from radioluminescent paint to cancer treatments. Finally we wrap things up by chatting about the many amazing medical applications of radiation therapy and how you can assess the risk/benefit of that X-ray or mammogram.


    To read Dr. Jorgensen’s incredible book Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation, check out his website or head to our website for our full list of sources.

    • 1 hr 53 min
    Ep 52 Rinderpest: Moo Cows, Moo Problems

    Ep 52 Rinderpest: Moo Cows, Moo Problems

    The second disease ever to be eradicated, rinderpest could be the most devastating and notorious infection you never knew existed. Though its name means “cattle plague”, the deadly rinderpest virus infected hundreds of species of animals during its long reign, and outbreaks of rinderpest left nothing but famine and ruin in their wake. In this episode, we start by taking you through the biology of one of the biggest killers we’ve ever faced. We then trace the long history of this feared disease, from fire festival rituals in Russia to the imperialist exploitation of the Great African Rinderpest Panzootic of the 1890s that paved the way for European colonial rule over a large part of the continent. Fortunately, this story ends happily as only one other has done so far - with complete and total eradication. You may have started this episode not knowing about rinderpest, but when you’re done, you won’t be able to stop talking about it. Trust us.

    • 1 hr 20 min
    Ep 51 The Path of Most (Antibiotic) Resistance

    Ep 51 The Path of Most (Antibiotic) Resistance

    No story of antibiotics would be complete without the rise of resistance. As promised in our last episode, this week we dive into what the WHO calls ‘one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today’ - antibiotic resistance. In the decades since their development, misuse and overuse of antibiotics has led to many becoming all but useless, and our world seems on the verge of plunging into a post-antibiotic era. How does resistance work? Where did it come from? Why did it spread so far so rapidly? Is there any hope? In this episode, we answer all these questions and more. First, we explore the many ways bacteria evade the weaponry of antibiotic compounds. Then we trace the global spread of these resistant bugs by examining the major contributors to their misuse and overuse. And finally we assess the current global status of antibiotic resistant infections (spoiler: it’s very bad) and search for any good news (spoiler: there’s a lot!). To chat about one super cool and innovative alternative to antibiotics, we are joined by the amazing Dr. Steffanie Strathdee (Twitter: @chngin_the_wrld), Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences, Harold Simon Professor at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Co-Director at the Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics. Dr. Strathdee provides a firsthand account of helping her husband, Dr. Tom Patterson, fight off a deadly superbug infection by calling on a long-forgotten method of treating bacterial infections: phage therapy.

     

    To read more about phage therapy and Dr. Strathdee’s incredible experiences, check out The Perfect Predator: A Scientist's Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug: A Memoir. 

    • 1 hr 50 min
    Ep 50 Antibiotics: We owe it all to chemistry!

    Ep 50 Antibiotics: We owe it all to chemistry!

    Fifty episodes. That’s fifty (sometimes) deadly viruses, bacteria, protozoa, parasites, and poisons. And don’t forget the fifty quarantinis to accompany each! What better way to celebrate this momentous occasion than talking about something that may actually save you: antibiotics. In this, our golden anniversary episode, our ambition tempts us to tackle the massive world of these bacteria-fighting drugs. We explore the various ways that antibiotics duel with their bacterial enemies to deliver us from infection, and we trace their history, from the early years of Fleming and Florey to the drama-laden labs of some soil microbiologists. Finally, we end, as we always do, with discussing where we stand with antibiotics today. Dr. Jonathan Stokes (@ItsJonStokes), postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Jim Collins’ lab at MIT, joins us to talk about some of his lab’s amazing research on using machine learning to discover new antibiotics, which prompts us to repeat “that is SO COOL” and “we are truly living in the future.” We think you’ll agree.

     

    To read more about using machine learning to uncover antibiotic compounds, head to the Collins’ lab website, the Audacious Project site, or check out Dr. Stokes’ paper: 

    Stokes, Jonathan M., et al. "A deep learning approach to antibiotic discovery." Cell 180.4 (2020): 688-702.

    • 1 hr 59 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
531 Ratings

531 Ratings

dorothy567 ,

So educational with the personal touch

I absolutely love this podcast, it’s probably my favourite. Especially appreciate that they use language and descriptions of the biology even I can understand and then add in the anthropology to set it more firmly in societal contexts. LOVE that they can make little jokes and have a giggle, it really helps lighten the mood and maintain the human-ness of it. So glad I found this!

Dizzledre ,

This podcast will save you!

I love the way this podcast is presented! So informative but easy & enjoyable to listen to. The biology/epidemiology behind it it fascinating & I love all the opinions on ecology. I genuinely want to become an epidemiologist or conservation ecologist & have no idea how I got through each day before I discovered this podcast

Lilithspain ,

A fun way to learn

Love how excited and enthusiastic these guys are! Funny and educational their laugher is infectious 😉

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