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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

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Ep 12 HIV/AIDS: Apathy Will Kill You

This is it, y'all: the season finale. This week we’re talking about HIV/AIDS, one of the biggest pandemics of modern times. We were fortunate enough to speak with three individuals who have had vastly different experiences with HIV/AIDS. Frank Iamelli, who took care of many of his friends throughout the epidemic, Hillel Wasserman, who has been living with HIV since 1987, and Brryan Jackson who was diagnosed with AIDS when he was only 5 years old. In this episode, you'll get a glimpse into their stories and then we'll fill you in on all of the biology, history, and present state of HIV in the world.Don’t forget to tune in next week for our special bonus episode where you will get to hear more of Frank, Hillel, and Brryan's stories in depth. In the meantime, here are a couple of links to Brryan's website and Being Alive LA which you'll hear more about next week!See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 29mins

23 Jan 2018

Rank #1

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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.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 59mins

12 May 2020

Rank #2

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Ep 43 M-m-m-my Coronaviruses

What better time to explore the world of coronaviruses than amidst an outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus that brings to mind memories of SARS and MERS? On this very special episode of This Podcast Will Kill You, we’ll take you through what we know about this diverse group of viruses, from the mild strains constantly circulating to the epidemic ones that make headlines with their lethality. Want to know how exactly these royal viruses make you sick? Or what went on during the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic? Don’t worry - we’ve got you covered. And to help us get a grasp on the current 2019-nCoV outbreak that’s got the world’s attention, we’ve brought on four experts from Emory University to give us the lowdown: Dr. Colleen Kraft, Dr. G. Marshall Lyon, Dr. Aneesh Mehta, and Dr. Carlos del Rio. *Please keep in mind, we recorded this episode on Sunday, Feb 2 and conducted the interviews between Jan 29 and 30, 2020. Since recording, the statistics on 2019-nCoV that we and our guests reported have changed as the epidemic continues to evolve. The figures are changing fast, but the basic info is still relevant. To follow the 2019-nCoV outbreak, our experts recommend the following as reliable sources of information: WHO 2019-nCoV website, especially the Situation Reports Map Dashboard of 2019-nCoV Cases by Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering CDC 2019-nCoV website And to learn more about the amazing work that our special guests do on the regular, follow them on Twitter! Colleen S. Kraft, MD, MSc (@colleenkraftmd) G. Marshall Lyon, MD, MMSc (@GMLyon3) Aneesh K. Mehta, M.D., FIDSA, FAST (@AneeshMehtaMD) Carlos del Rio, MD (@CarlosdelRio7)See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 48mins

4 Feb 2020

Rank #3

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Ep 65 Sweating Sickness: Ready, Sweat, Go!

Here’s a pop quiz for all of you: what disease makes you sweat profusely, run a slight fever, develop body aches and a pounding head and then makes you drop dead within hours of symptom onset? If you answered “I have no idea”, you passed! Because we haven’t a clue either. In this episode, we attempt to tease apart the mysterious sweating sickness, which struck only five times in the 1400s and 1500s in England, leaving in its wake terror, confusion, and a trail of bodies. Although the sweating sickness has not been seen since (or has it?), scientists and scholars continue to investigate this mysterious illness and propose various pathogens as the likely causative agent. Tune in to hear us go through the most popular explanations to see if we can form our own consensus on ‘the sweat’.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 19mins

26 Jan 2021

Rank #4

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Ep 64 Rubella: Timing is Everything

For many of us, rubella has simply come to mean the R in MMR, the routine childhood measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. But that hasn’t always been the case. There was once a time when the rubella virus routinely made front page news and was at the center of countless legal discussions. This week, we explore everything you’ve ever wanted to know about this virus. We start off by asking what this virus does to your body and how it can cross the placenta, leading to congenital rubella syndrome. Then we journey through the short but impactful history of this disease, from the discovery of the effects the virus can have on a developing fetus to the widespread epidemics that spurred on the development of a vaccine. Finally we wrap up with some much-needed good news about the global decline of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 19mins

12 Jan 2021

Rank #5

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Ep 36 Shades of Syphilis

That’s right, we’re back! And we’re starting off with a bang. Syphilis, aka the Great Imitator, is the subject of today’s long-awaited episode, and it’s got everything you could imagine. When you woke up today, were you hoping to learn about how this spirochete can invade all of your body’s organs? Or how the geographic origins of syphilis are still disputed? Maybe you were wishing to gain some knowledge about a horrific experiment that revolutionized bioethics and defined what it means to give informed consent? One thing is certain - you’re definitely going to want to know about the current status of this ancient disease (yikes, it’s on the rise) and how to cure it (whew, penicillin works). Tune in to have all these wishes granted.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 39mins

29 Oct 2019

Rank #6

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Ep 40 Dancing Plague: Worst Dance Party Ever

In 1518 a strange sight could be seen all over the town of Strasbourg. Crowds of people dancing unceasingly, unable to control their movements, seemingly heedless of their blistered and bloodied feet. As the contagious dance grew, so did the body count as the frenzied dancers succumbed to exhaustion. Over 500 years later, this dancing plague leaves us with many questions, first among them being, “What in the heck?”. In this episode, we try to get to the bottom of this mysterious infectious dance by investigating several different hypotheses, which lead us down some wild roads. Tune in, put on your best dancing shoes, and drop that beat.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 19mins

24 Dec 2019

Rank #7

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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.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 20mins

23 Jun 2020

Rank #8

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Ep 41 Ricin: A Bad Seed

Have you missed learning about plant poisons? Well, it’s your lucky day! Today is our first crossover of season three with our friend Matt Candeias of In Defense of Plants. In this episode we delve into the castor bean plant Ricinus communis and its two notorious products: castor oil and the star of the show, ricin. Join us as we learn about ricin’s storied history, which leads us through political assassinations and efficiency in engines, the biology of ricin, which horrifies us with its lethality, and finally, the ecology of the plant, which surprises us with its strategic partnerships. Looking for more ways to cure your plant blindness? Check out In Defense of Plants at indefenseofplants.com and follow Matt on twitter @indfnsofplnts.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 15mins

7 Jan 2020

Rank #9

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Ep 39 Toxoplasmosis: Calling All Cats

You’ve seen the headlines: could this cat-associated parasite be controlling your every move? Is the love you have for cats pure or merely a manipulation? Join us as we discuss Toxoplasma gondii, the feline-associated parasite that infects a whopping one third of all humans. Yes, you read that right. From the behavior-altering effects on rodents to the ancestral origins of the domestic cat, we dive deep into all things toxoplasmosis, the disease that sounds like it comes straight out of a sci-fi novel.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 9mins

10 Dec 2019

Rank #10

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Ep 37 E. coli (unless it's beets)

E. coli. Such a short name for such a massive topic. This episode we explore the delightful diversity of Escherichia coli, the ubiquitous bacterium that predates humans and can range in virulence anywhere from “you won’t even know I’m there” to “this is really, really, really gonna hurt”. Today we cover the good, the bad, and the ugly: you’ll hear about the innumerable contributions of E. coli to the fields of genetics, evolution, and microbiology, a detailed account of how pathogenic strains can wreak havoc on your guts, and an exploration of one of the most infamous food-borne illness outbreaks in US history. Hoping we’d end it on a happy note? Better luck next time, folks.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 10mins

12 Nov 2019

Rank #11

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Ep 6 Plague Part 2: TGFA

We're back with another episode all about plague-TGFA: Thank Goodness For Antibiotics! Today we'll focus on the status of plague in the modern world: where it is, where it isn't, and what we can do about it. And as always, we'll let you know whether or not to put on your scaredy pants.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

40mins

5 Dec 2017

Rank #12

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COVID-19 Ch 11: Modeling

The eleventh episode of our Anatomy of a Pandemic series has arrived, and just in time. Have you found yourself trying to sift through headlines claiming “this model predicts that” and “that model predicts this”, but you’re not sure where the truth really lies? Then this episode is for you. With the help of Dr. Mike Famulare from the Institute for Disease Modeling (interview recorded April 29, 2020), we walk through the basics of mathematical modeling of infectious disease, explore some of the current projections for this pandemic, and discuss some guidelines for evaluating these headline-making models. As always, we wrap up the episode by discussing the top five things we learned from our expert. To help you get a better idea of the topics covered in this episode, we’ve listed the questions below: What is a math model and what are some of the goals of mathematical modeling? So talking specifically now about infectious disease models, can you walk us through what the basic components are of an infectious disease model, like an SIR model? Where do you get the data that you use to estimate the parameters in an SIR model - what is based on actual data and what has to be estimated? Infectious disease outbreaks often have a curve-like shape, with the number of infected individuals on the y-axis and time on the x-axis. Can you explain why infectious disease epidemics tend to follow a curve? Can you talk us through some of the assumptions that you have to make when you're constructing one of these models and how that kind of relates to the uncertainty inherent within models? How might that uncertainty affect interpretation? What are some examples of the various ways we use infectious disease models in public health policy? Can you talk about how models might be used at various stages of a pandemic to guide public health measures? How might our use of models early on in a pandemic be different from the middle of one? Speaking specifically about COVID-19 now, can you talk about what a basic model for this pandemic might look like?  Are models for COVID-19 using only lab-confirmed cases of the disease or clinical-confirmed cases as well? Looking back on these earlier models of COVID-19, what can we take away from the performance of these models? Is there any agreement among models as to what policies might be the best in terms of keeping cases and deaths as low as possible?  For those of us who have no background in mathematical or statistical modeling, are there guidelines that we should use to evaluate these models or compare them? What should we (as in the general public) be taking away from these models? Are there any positive changes you hope to see come out of this pandemic, either as a member of the community or as a math modeler? For a deeper dive into the wonderful world of infectious disease models, we recommend checking out this recent video from Robin Thompson, PhD of Oxford Mathematics titled “How do mathematicians model infectious disease outbreaks?” The video was posted on April 8, 2020. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 21mins

4 May 2020

Rank #13

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Ep 35 Lyme Disease: I'd like to check you for ticks

For our last episode of this season, we’re going out with a bang, or should we say bite? This week we’re tackling the doozy of a disease called Lyme, the most prevalent tick-borne infection in the northern hemisphere. Tune in to hear us navigate the complicated biology of Borrelia burgdoferi, delve into the ancient history of the disease (ice mummy? yes, please!), and trace the tangled ecological web woven by the spirochete, its vector, and its hosts. And to round out this delicious blood-meal of an episode, we are joined by the one-and-only hunter of ticks, ecologist of disease, and PhD advisor of Erins, Dr. Brian Allan! Not only does Brian shine some light on the current innovative research on Lyme disease ecology, but he also details his own experience with the disease. This episode is as full as a tick with information about Lyme disease, making it one you’re not going to want to miss.The clock is already ticking for our third season premiere on October 29, so mark those calendars, people! And in the meantime, wash your hands, ya filthy animals!See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

2hr

3 Sep 2019

Rank #14

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Ep 8 ABRACADABRA - Go Away Malaria!

It's both a disease of dinosaurs and a plague of people. A gin and tonic might make you forget how much those bites itch, but it won't protect you much from this mosquito-borne monster. That's right people, today we're talking about malaria! We're super excited to tell you about this parasite since it's one of EAU's personal favs (are we allowed to have favorite horrible diseases?). Come along as we travel back millions of years to explore malaria's wee beginnings, trace its path as it shaped human evolution, take a short botanical detour to make that G & T, and end up where we first began--in 2017. Turns out that monster hasn't released humanity from its clutches quite yet.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

59mins

19 Dec 2017

Rank #15

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Ep 42 Dandy Dengue Fever

Our first vector-borne disease episode of season 3 and our first mosquito-borne pathogen in quite some time, dengue virus proves itself to be more than a worthy topic (and quite a formidable adversary in terms of public health). This week we are joined by Dr. Alex Trillo who drops some firsthand knowledge on the excruciating symptoms that give dengue its colloquial name “breakbone fever”, and then we trace the virus’s path from its evolutionary origins in ancient forests to the inevitable emergence of dengue hemorrhagic fever following modern war. We round it all out with some truly horrifying stats on the prevalence of dengue today as well as some promising research on reducing the prevalence of dengue tomorrow. To find out more about Alex’s incredibly cool research, check out her website at www.alextrillo.com and follow her on Twitter at @Trillo_PA.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 14mins

21 Jan 2020

Rank #16

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Ep 9 Tuberculosis: A Slow Burn

Today, we’re taking a page straight out of Dickens and talking about tuberculosis- a disease as rich in history as it is in bloody sputum. We'll travel the path of an individual Mycobacterium tuberculosis as it makes it way down the respiratory tract of its victim and waits patiently, hidden and untouchable. We’ll learn why Nicole Kidman's skinny physique was so en vogue in Moulin Rouge, talk about ‘The Royal Touch’, which isn’t quite as creepy as it sounds, cover enough of Koch's postulates that you can give yourself an honorary microbiology degree, and oh so much more.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

59mins

2 Jan 2018

Rank #17

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Ep 38 Lead Poisoning: Heavy Metal Episode

This episode, our first foray into toxic metals, is heavy in all kinds of ways - metallically, emotionally, informationally, politically. Lead poisoning has been around for about as long humans have been working with lead, but despite its extensive history, it still poses an incredibly huge public health problem today, especially for children. Tune in to hear us chat about the multitude of effects lead exposure can have on your body, the dark and often strange history of lead poisoning (ancient Rome, anyone?), and the alarming extent to which lead exposure affects people around the world today.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 12mins

26 Nov 2019

Rank #18

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Ep 49 Eastern Equine Encephalitis: Triple EEEk!

In 2019, eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, made headlines in much of the US as cases skyrocketed compared to previous years. But why is this disease so feared and even more importantly, why is it on the rise? Those are just a couple of the questions we seek to answer on this week’s episode. From the nitty gritty on what this virus does to your body to centuries-long forest dynamics in Massachusetts, we connect the disease ecology dots of EEE. We promise, the biology and history of eastern equine encephalitis is much more exciting than its etymology.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 9mins

28 Apr 2020

Rank #19

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Ep 48 Botulism: Why are you the way you are?

You don’t look surprised to see this in your podcast feed - or is that just the botox? This week we’re taking a tour of the wonderful world of Clostridium botulinum and the toxin it produces, at once both poison and prescription. First, we delve into how botulinum toxin acts to paralyze your muscles and under what circumstances you might encounter it. Then we iron out the wrinkles of the why of botulinum toxin, an answer that involves migratory birds, maggots, and marshes. The story continues with blood sausages, an unfortunate funeral party, and a massive shift from toxin to treatment as the therapeutic potential of botulinum toxin is explored. And the best part of this episode? Georgia. Hardstark. You’ve heard the always amazing, ever hilarious, and one of our personal heroes Georgia Hardstark on My Favorite Murder, but now listen to her share her firsthand experience with getting botox facial injections. This episode ranks among our top favorites we've ever recorded, and we hope you love it as much as we do!See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

1hr 27mins

14 Apr 2020

Rank #20