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This Podcast Will Kill You
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This Podcast Will Kill You

Author: Exactly Right Media – the original true crime comedy network

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This podcast might not actually kill you, but Erin Welsh and Erin Allmann Updyke cover so many things that can. In each episode, they tackle a different topic, teaching listeners about the biology, history, and epidemiology of a different disease or medical mystery. They do the scientific research, so you don’t have to.

 

Since 2017, Erin and Erin have explored chronic and infectious diseases, medications, poisons, viruses, bacteria and scientific discoveries. They’ve researched public health subjects including plague, Zika, COVID-19, lupus, asbestos, endometriosis and more.


Each episode is accompanied by a creative quarantini cocktail recipe and a non-alcoholic placeborita.


Erin Welsh, Ph.D. is a co-host of the This Podcast Will Kill You. She is a disease ecologist and epidemiologist and works full-time as a science communicator through her work on the podcast. Erin Allmann Updyke, MD, Ph.D. is a co-host of This Podcast Will Kill You. She’s an epidemiologist and disease ecologist currently in the final stretch of her family medicine residency program.


This Podcast Will Kill You is part of the Exactly Right podcast network that provides a platform for bold, creative voices to bring to life provocative, entertaining and relatable stories for audiences everywhere. The Exactly Right roster of podcasts covers a variety of topics including science, true crime, comedic interviews, news, pop culture and more. Podcasts on the network include My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, Buried Bones, That's Messed Up: An SVU Podcast and more.

180 Episodes
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The TPWKY book club is back in action, and we’re thrilled to be starting this season’s reading journey with Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens, reproductive rights advocate, Associate Professor in the University of Connecticut history department, and award-winning author of Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology. The history of science and medicine often focuses on the achievements of wealthy, white male physicians and researchers whose names are etched on medical school buildings, libraries, and dormitories. Rarely do these stories give voice to those whose bodies or labor were exploited in the name of scientific progress. In the first book club episode of the season, Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens joins us to discuss the Black enslaved women who worked alongside the so-called “Father of Gynecology”, James Marion Sims, as both patients and caregivers in nineteenth-century America. Our conversation takes us through the inherent contradictions in the way nineteenth-century physicians wrote and thought about race, gender, and health, and how broad changes in medical practice during this time promoted the dissemination of unfounded beliefs in how white and Black bodies experienced pain, health, and disease. Tune in for a fascinating conversation that will have you immediately adding Medical Bondage to your to-read list! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In many ways, this week’s episode on myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a companion piece to last week’s episode on Long Covid. The two share many similarities: a wide range of debilitating symptoms lingering long after infection, an illness which can transform from day to day or week to week, dismissal and downplaying by the medical community, a big question mark under “pathophysiological cause”, and so many others. These parallels can tell us a great deal about our concepts of disease and how we deal with uncertainty in science and medicine. But the differences between these two can be equally revealing. In this episode, we dig into what we know and what we hypothesize about the biological underpinnings of ME/CFS before tracing the twisty history of this disease, as popular perception switched back and forth and back again from “real” to “imagined” disease. We wrap up the episode with a look at some of the current research and promising treatments for ME/CFS. Both ME/CFS and Long Covid demonstrate the power of patients and patient advocates in raising awareness about poorly understood diseases and the impact that sharing personal stories can have. You can find more incredible work by Katie Walters, the provider of one of our firsthands for this episode, by clicking on this link. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
We’re back with our season 7 premiere, and we’re kicking things off with a topic that we’ve wanted to cover for a long time, even if the topic itself hasn’t been around all that long. That’s right, we’re taking on Long Covid. When SARS-CoV-2 began making its way around the world in 2020, it was thought to cause a mild illness in most people, with complete recovery a couple of weeks after first getting infected. But just a short time into the pandemic, people began to report debilitating symptoms lingering for months after recovery was “supposed” to happen. What started out as a trickle of reports soon turned into a tsunami, and this condition, which came to be known as Long Covid, transformed our understanding of this viral infection. In this episode, we explore how the concept of Long Covid was defined by those who experience it, who also continue to advocate for better treatment, more research, and real compassion from medical professionals. We examine what we currently know about the biology of this condition, and delve into some of the most promising research avenues that may give us a greater understanding of or ability to treat Long Covid. This story is still being written, but already it can tell us so much about our concepts of infectious disease and how the medical system treats those with “invisible” illness. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
For our season 6 finale, we’re spending some time with menopause. How many nicknames can you think of for menstruation? Quite a few, I’m sure. “That time of the month”, “Aunt Flo”, “the red wave”, “period”, the list goes on. But what about euphemisms for menopause? We’ve got “the change” or “change of life”, “climacteric”, and… that’s it? There may be more out there, but the comparison is revealing. Despite the fact that roughly half of the global population has or will one day experience menopause, the lack of nicknames demonstrates the silence, often tinged with shame, still enveloping it. In this episode, we explore the roots of this silence and the many historical misconceptions about menopause that frame our current perspective. We also examine the effect that this silence has on our understanding of the physiological processes underlying this transition. Why do some people experience symptoms and others do not? Why do humans experience menopause? What is the grandmother effect? What’s the latest on hormone replacement therapy? These are only a sampling of the many questions we delve into in this info-packed, frustration-laden, and eye-opening episode. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Raise your hand if you or someone you know has had their tonsils removed. If your hand is sky-high, there’s a pretty good chance that you (or that person you know) are from the US and were born before 1980. Of course, maybe that’s not the case, but tonsillectomies certainly fit in the category of 20th-century fads, along with Tamagotchis and the Atkins diet. While the procedure is still widely performed today (and for very good reasons), the frequency of tonsillectomies has dropped drastically from mid-20th century rates. In this episode, we explore why tonsillectomies became so popular, when they fell out of favor, and what about tonsils makes them worthy of removal. Tune in to be horrified by ancient tonsil removal techniques, shocked at how long it takes new knowledge to change policies, and appreciative of just how cool tonsils actually are. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
This one’s not just for the dogs. It’s also for the cats, the raccoons, the wax moths, the birds, the mice, and so many other critters. Oh, and of course the humans. Even though most of us may be familiar with parvovirus through our canine friends, the world of parvoviruses is much larger. In this episode, we explore that world, focusing first on the biology of these tiny DNA viruses and how they make us sick before tracing the history of their discovery and the pandemic spread of canine parvovirus just a few short decades ago. We are joined by the amazing Dr. Steph Horgan Smith who acts as our veterinary tour guide through the animal world of these viruses and why vaccination against them is so incredibly important. Finally, we round out the episode with some of the latest research on these viruses, featuring some very cool, very promising work on using the dependoparvoviruses as a tool for gene therapy. Tune in to learn where Fifth disease got its name, what role raccoons may have played in the emergence of canine parvovirus, and so much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Often, the more we learn about a disease, the more we learn about ourselves and the world around us. The story of the genetic disorder osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), colloquially known as brittle bone disease, illustrates this perfectly. As researchers continue to uncover the mechanisms responsible for OI development and progression, the better we understand the varied and crucial roles collagen plays in all parts of our biology. As historians attempt to trace how that knowledge has accumulated over time, the more we can clearly see how science rarely progresses consistently but rather erratically and is prone to interruption. And as we assess where we are with OI treatment and research today, the more apparent the gap is between knowledge and application, and just how critical lived experiences are in understanding a disease. In this episode, we explore these aspects of osteogenesis imperfecta, and we are thrilled to be joined by Natalie Lloyd, who shares her experience with OI as our firsthand account. Natalie is a New York Times bestselling author of novels for young readers, whose recently published award-winning book Hummingbird tells the story of a young girl with OI. Heartwarming, magical, and brilliant, this wonderful book is a must-read. Tune in today! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Parkinson’s is a disease of many dimensions. On the shelves of any bookstore or library you’ll find at least a handful of titles exploring the topic from a myriad of perspectives, and extending that search to the internet will turn up dozens upon dozens more options: how-to guides for the recently diagnosed, in-depth textbooks exploring the neurophysiology of disease development, memoirs about caregiving for people with Parkinson’s, books offering a tour through the history of research advancements. The choices seem limitless and maybe a tad overwhelming. But that’s where we come in. In this episode, we take you through many of the dimensions of Parkinson’s disease, from its complicated biology, still shrouded in mystery, to its history, peppered with transformative moments like the introduction of dopamine. We round out the episode by exploring the tremendous amount of promising research on the horizon, leaving us feeling like we’re *this* close to yet another revolution in Parkinson’s disease treatment. If you’ve ever wondered what dopamine does, who Parkinson was, and what might be next for this disease, this episode is for you. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In the 16th century, a series of deadly epidemics swept through much of the region of Mesoamerica known as the Aztec Empire, killing untold millions. By the start of the first of these epidemics, the area had become woefully accustomed to devasting epidemic disease, as the Spanish conquistadors had introduced smallpox, measles, typhus, and influenza, among other infections. But this disease, with its tendency to induce massive hemorrhage, fever, jaundice, and rapid death, seemed different from those now familiar infections, and so was given a new name: cocoliztli. People watched in horror as cocoliztli overtook town after town, village after village, sometimes killing as much as 80% of the population and leaving nothing but desolation in its wake. Hundreds of years after the epidemics ended, debate about the pathogen responsible for cocoliztli remains. In this episode, we’re going deep down the rabbit hole of this medical mystery, linking the spread and nature of these epidemics with the characteristics of the many pathogens that have been proposed over the years. We draw from contemporary accounts, ecological analyses, and even a recent ancient DNA study to make our evaluations, but do we ever get to the bottom of cocoliztli? Tune in to find out. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
With a history extending back millennia, with a biology that leads to permanent disability for tens of millions of people globally, and with a bacterial endosymbiont that may prove to be its Achilles heel, the filarial parasites that cause lymphatic filariasis are quite the complex creatures. In this episode, we explore the intricacies of this neglected tropical disease - also known as elephantiasis. We start by examining its complicated ecology involving many mosquito and parasite species, before moving on to its tricky biology where we finally answer the age-old question, “What is the lymphatic system anyway?”. Next, we move on to the convoluted history of lymphatic filariasis, where it holds the distinction of being the first disease recognized as mosquito-borne. We wrap up the episode with a look at its present global status, grappling with some current figures on the tremendous global burden of this disease and investigating some exciting treatment developments that will hopefully bring relief to the hundreds of millions of people at risk of developing this debilitating disease. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
For every article about the risks of sun exposure or a guide to sunscreens, you don’t have to look far to find one about the health benefits of sunshine or a how-to for achieving the best tan. Messaging around sun exposure is mixed, to say the least, and it’s no wonder that despite having more sun protection tools than ever before, rates of skin cancer have never been higher. In this episode, we delve into the relationship between UV radiation and skin cancers, answering your (sun)burning questions about the different types of cancers and how sunscreens actually work. We then explore the history of sun protective methods and how attitudes around tanning have changed dramatically over time. We wrap up the episode with a look at rates of skin cancers around the globe today and exciting research showing the benefits of sunscreens as well as how AI might be used to help diagnose skin cancer. Tune in for an info-packed episode that will have you reaching for that sunscreen bottle. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
On the night of December 2, 1984, a deadly gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India led to what has been described as the world’s worst industrial disaster. In the immediate aftermath of the gas leak, thousands of people died and hundreds of thousands were injured from exposure to the toxic gas methyl isocyanate. But long after the international headlines and news reports dwindled to silence, long after Union Carbide paid a paltry settlement to survivors, long after the disaster faded from much of the world’s memory, the gas leak continues to haunt the residents of Bhopal. In this episode, we trace the path of methyl isocyanate from initial discovery to the night of the disaster and the years that followed. We then explore what about this gas makes it so very deadly before assessing how the contamination still present at the site is causing health problems for residents decades after the gas leak. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
“Throbbing, pulsating pain.” “Like a drill boring into your head.” “As though your head is gripped by a vise.” “Stabbing pain hammering through your brain.” There is no shortage of metaphors used to describe the horrific, incapacitating pain of migraines. But try as we might, can any of them truly convey what it feels like to be at the mercy of such pain? In many ways, migraines reveal our shortcomings: with language that fails to accurately describe pain, with empathy when we continue to dismiss migraines as “just really bad headaches”, with medicine as we struggle to find reliable treatments and preventatives, and with biology as we fail to understand the complete pathology of this condition. In this episode, we do our best to explore these shortcomings by deep diving into what we do know about the biology and history of migraines. Why do some people get migraines and others don’t? How do certain medications work? What the heck is going on with aura? Have migraines always been around? How have people dealt with them or perceived them historically? What’s on the horizon for migraines in the future? As always, we’ve got lots of questions and lots of answers for you, so tune in today! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Fungal infections don’t often make an appearance on this podcast, but when they do, you know you’re in for a wild ride. In this episode, we explore the rare but potentially deadly fungal infection blastomycosis. We trace the journey of Blastomyces spores as they depart from their cozy homes of decomposing wood and make their way first into mammalian lungs before possibly moving into the skin, intestines, and brain. How and why these fungi can be so deadly is our next stop, one that takes us into an unexpected direction: the fall of dinosaurs, the rise of mammals and the role that pathogenic fungi played in this transition. We delve into why comparatively few fungi are pathogenic to humans and how our warm-bloodedness may protect us. But, as we discuss in the episode’s conclusion, that protection may be weakened as our warming planet selects for fungi that can tolerate increasing temperatures. Dinos, dogs, deep time, and deadly outbreaks - this episode has it all. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
There’s no denying that human imagination is a powerful thing. It has led us to create incredible works of art, literature that transports its readers to other realms, technology that revolutionizes the way we communicate and travel, music and film that makes us laugh, cry, and hit repeat. But our imagination often falls short when trying to conceive of the world from another person’s perspective, especially when it comes to senses. In this episode, we delve into one of the most prominent examples of this: color vision and color vision deficiencies. First, we take you through how color vision works and just how non-universal this experience is. We then explore the origins of color vision and what evolutionary significance it may have held before getting into the discovery of color vision deficiency and its impact on industry. We close out this colorful episode by chatting about some of the latest developments and products geared towards those with color vision deficiency. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD). The dreaded scourge of daycares, kindergartens, even occasionally college campuses, and the topic of this week’s episode. From the multiple viruses that cause HFMD to the wide array of symptoms (bye bye, fingernails), from the relatively recent discovery of this disease to the ancient origins of all viruses (deep time, y’all), from the changing nature of outbreaks to the development of potential vaccines (fingers crossed) - in this episode we’re going way beyond the basics of hand, foot, and mouth disease. Whether or not you’ve had the pleasure of being up close and personal with this disease, this episode is sure to leave you slightly horrified/mildly impressed by the infectiousness, longevity, resilience, and deep roots of the HFMD viruses. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Most of us are familiar with asthma. Maybe you have the disease yourself or maybe a friend, family member, or coworker has it. Or maybe you’ve just watched a tv show or movie featuring a character with asthma. However you learned about this disease, you probably still have some lingering questions about it, like “how do inhalers work?”, “what are the different types of asthma?”, “where does the word asthma come from?”, “can other animals get asthma?”, and “can Erin and Erin tell me everything they possibly can about asthma?” The answer to that last question is a resounding yes, and the answers to the others you’ll find in today’s episode, where we take you through the complicated but somehow also straightforward biology of this disease, the long history of asthma peppered with firsthand accounts, and the promising research that may transform the way we live with this disease. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Our final TPWKY book club selection of the season will test the limits of your imagination by asking you to consider what it might be like to smell the world through the nose of a dog or to see flowers through the ultraviolet vision of a bee. It will make you ponder the tradeoffs inherent in sensory perception and what an animal’s dominant senses can tell us about what is most important to their species. It will have you contemplating what the future holds for sensory research, both in terms of what new senses we might discover as well as the impacts of sensory pollution on an ecosystem. In short, it will change the way you perceive the world. Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist Ed Yong joins us to chat about his incredible book, An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us. Yong, whose other book I Contain Multitudes is another TPWKY favorite, leads us on an expedition beyond the boundaries of human senses as we chat about what an octopus tastes, how the line between communication and perception is blurred in electric fish, the evolutionary arms race between bats and moths, and even the long-standing question of why zebras have stripes. Tune in for the riveting and magical conclusion to this season’s miniseries. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The CDC’s list of highest priority bioterrorism agents is a short one, with only six pathogens making the cut. Among the more familiar names on the list, such as anthrax, botulism, plague, smallpox, and viral hemorrhagic fevers, is the topic of today’s episode: Francisella tularensis. Unless you’re a hunter or work with small mammals, you may not recognize the name of this pathogen or the disease it causes - tularemia - let alone the characteristics that earned it a place on the CDC’s list. By the end of this episode, though, all that will have changed. Join us as we explore why this pathogen’s brutal biology makes it a force to be reckoned with, how the history of its discovery has surprising origins in the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and what promises future research may hold for protection against this deadly disease. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Oh, to taste the food of the past. Strawberry jam made from farm-fresh strawberries. Milk straight from the cow. Cookies baked with freshly churned butter and brown sugar. Because that’s how it was, right? Everything used to be fresher, more pure, unadulterated by preservatives or additives, right? Our latest TPWKY book club pick shows us just how wrong that notion is. Science journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Deborah Blum joins us this week to chat about her book, The Poison Squad, which tells the story of the fight for food safety regulation in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. In our conversation, Blum rips off those rose-tinted nostalgia glasses and reveals that strawberry jam rarely contained strawberries, milk could include a mix of formaldehyde and pond water, butter had borax, and brown sugar was mostly ground up insects. Until one man, chemist Harvey Wiley, stepped up and spearheaded the campaign for food safety legislation, all of these horrific practices of food adulteration were entirely legal. Tune in to learn what Wiley was up against and some of the tactics used in his struggle, including the wild story of the experiment that gave this book its title. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (352)

Anthony Famularo

I agree with you 100% on this, but it's complicated by the fact that in some cases, Drs SHOULD dismiss a patient's "expertise," like when one insists that Covid-19 doesn't actually exist, or that Ivermectin can cure it, or any other such insanity. Are there any studies about which % of patient/researchers are competent and properly analytical, VS those who are properly bonkers? In any case, though not all assertive patients are right, Drs should always give clear reasons for their opinions.

Apr 24th
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Sarah Underwood

so the issue for me with this discussion is how sepsis is more of a "random" sequelae of any serious infection. not a primary issue.

Feb 26th
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Laura Muir

Switched off the minute you said person who menstruates. It's WOMAN. You're scientists. jeez.

Feb 20th
Reply (1)

Sarah Underwood

I mean I'm a DVM Leptospirosis isn't a "tropical disease" and is totally common place in the US. I vaccinate for it multiple times a day.

Feb 16th
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Juju Longo

I'm thankful for my dermatologist who, in my teens, told me I had to use sunscreen and avoid the sun or die. She was joking (but not really), and it helps that I never liked to tan. Still, I've had melanoma twice, and was lucky to catch it before it caused bigger problems. And I totally identified with the first hand account: skin cancer is still cancer. It's scary, and we have to take care. Amazing episode, as usual!

Dec 1st
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Sadie Toth

How do you spell the man's name? The one that started with a G I think

Nov 25th
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Shawna

great episode !!very informative

Nov 23rd
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Corcelim

I love learning about these disasters and hate that they happen

Oct 27th
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carly macinnis

Thai you ladies for helping me understand as usual! I'd like to recommend another autoimmune disease. Addison's disease! it's hereditary, JFK had it. my dog has it. I'd like to learn more in the way only you can tell it!

Jul 24th
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Jeri Bitney

Thank you for this! Our neighbor's sweet granddaughter has Turners and is 25 years old.

Jul 8th
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Melanie Marie-Jahnke Manning

sepsis. it's a messpsis

Jul 2nd
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Melanie Marie-Jahnke Manning

the title makes me think of the show House. Was it ever Lupus? they suggested it every time 😂

May 22nd
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Shawna

you little tb's keep on kickin!!!

May 22nd
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Laura Muir

it's ironic that, as scientists, you talk about the language attitudes and concealment yet not once have you said the word women or girls but say people and people who menstruate. shame on you and shame on your degrees.

May 9th
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Shawna

"stop it right now"!!!! ABRACADABRA = go away Malaria!!!!!

May 8th
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Shawna

I love the interviews you guys do . it brings such a personal touch to these diseases

May 7th
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Shawna

also thanks for the history of the March of Dimes and how Roosevelt got on the dime. I never knew this story. Thanks

May 3rd
Reply (1)

Shawna

excellent episode. also I think it was great to include the interview .. gave such a personal touch on the subject!!!

May 3rd
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Shawna

yep roasting you for not liking cats!!!! but still gonna listen to you guys because you are both so awesome!!!!!

Apr 2nd
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Shawna

thanks for the 💩 show . the history of cholera covers interesting

Mar 24th
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