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This Podcast Will Kill You
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This Podcast Will Kill You

Author: Exactly Right

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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

39 Episodes
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.
Ep 36 Shades of Syphilis

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.
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!
Despite being one of the most common genetic disorders, affecting millions of people worldwide, cystic fibrosis evaded medical description for thousands of years after its first appearance. But the last century has led to a revolution in diagnosis, treatment, and our understanding of the disease. This week we talk all things cystic fibrosis, from salty sweaty tests to European folklore, from Bell Beaker culture to gene therapy. And we are honored to be joined by Jay Gironimi, author of “Can’t Eat, Can’t Breathe, and Other Ways Cystic Fibrosis Has F#$%*d Me”, who chats candidly about his experience with CF. Oh, and the best part? Jay, also the talented musician behind All Hallow‘s Evil, wrote a custom song specifically for this episode! We loved it so much we named this ep after it, and we know you’re gonna love it too. You can find Jay’s book on amazon in both paperback and digital versions, find the audiobook version on audible and more of his writing at You can also find his music at and follow him on twitter @allhallowsevil. 
Walking through a forest at dusk, you’ve likely heard the croaks and groans of frogs and toads forming a chorus in the damp undergrowth. But what if the forest were suddenly, inexplicably, silent? In the 1980s scientists started noticing the forests becoming quieter as amphibian populations around the globe began to decline -- rapidly. Today we are joined by Dr. Taegan McMahon from the University of Tampa to discuss our first ever wildlife disease: chytridiomycosis. Chytrid fungus, or Bd for short, has wreaked havoc on amphibian populations for the last several decades, and researchers are still trying to find a way to stop it. For more information on Chytrid and Taegan’s research, follow her lab on instagram @mcmahon_lab. For more awesome parasitology pics, check out @uoftampa_parasitology, and for gorgeous biology art, Taegan does watercolors @wandering.ecologist!  
Ep 32 Ask the Erins

Ep 32 Ask the Erins


What exactly is disease ecology anyway? How did  TPWKY come to be? How do we come up with our quarantinis? What’s our favorite pathogen? In this very special episode, you get to hear exactly what you’ve been asking for -- literally. Today we answer listener questions and don’t hold anything back. From what are the effects of climate change on vector-borne disease to what we were like at age nine, you asked and we answered!
Ep 31 Giardia: Gerardia

Ep 31 Giardia: Gerardia


Giardia may be the most common intestinal parasite in the US and one of the most common worldwide, but did you know it was only in the last 40 years that it was officially recognized as a human pathogen?! In today’s episode, we’ll travel back to a time before humans knew microbes even existed to discover alongside Leeuwenhoek a whole new world of animalcules like giardia. We’ll find out how seeing these critters for the first time changed everything, and how long it has taken to recognize their impact on the globe. Plus, we’ll tell you all about how giardia gives you such bad poops.
Imagine this: a sickness where millions fell into a deep slumber from which they never woke. Of those that did, many remained trapped in a cage of their own bodies, unable to move or speak but fully aware of the world around them. Imagine that this sickness appeared suddenly, without warning, and spread across the globe, affecting millions in just a few decades. Then, just as quickly as it emerged it disappeared. Survivors were left to suffer, eventually forgotten, while hundreds of questions remained unanswered. This is the story of encephalitis lethargica, the subject of our first ever medical mystery episode. Encephalitis lethargica was a ‘sleepy sickness’ epidemic which afflicted millions in the early 1910s and 20s but has caused only sporadic cases since the 1940s. This mysterious illness revolutionized the fields of neurology and psychiatry and forced physicians to examine where the brain ends and the mind begins. What could cause such an illness and why haven’t we seen it since? Tune in to hear us tell you the story of this fascinating medical mystery.
On this very special crossover episode with our friend Matt Candeias from In Defense of Plants, we’re switching things up from poison to remedy, focusing on the plant-derived wonder drug, aspirin! We cover the ancient use of salicylic acid-containing willow bark to relieve pain and fevers and then reveal how such a harsh compound was transformed into a useable pharmaceutical. We also delve into what happens in your body when you pop an aspirin and discuss why on earth so many plants make this incredible compound. Spoiler - it’s not just a wonder drug for humans.
This week's episode comes with a warning: don't attempt this at home. While self-experimentation has led to many a scientific breakthrough, we're definitely not advocating it. But it happened to work out for the best for Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, even earning them a Nobel prize. That’s right folks, today we’re talking about none other than Helicobacter pylori, the curvy little bacterium identified only a few decades ago to be a causative agent of peptic ulcer disease, a major risk factor in the development of gastric cancer, and a fierce warrior who can survive the harshest of environments: your stomach.
Comments (142)

Julie McLaughlin

hope you are fans of Sawbones, with all the crazy killer cures you discuss!

Oct 30th



Oct 30th
Reply (1)

Tiffany Reese

american scandal is a good podcast with a deep dive into the Tuskegee project.

Oct 29th
Reply (2)


Welcome back!!!

Oct 29th
Reply (2)

A. Schaan

It was about a year ago that I was diagnosed with Lyme. I came home wanting to learn as much as I could about the disease and thought I would start with podcasts. Truth be told there weren't any really great podcasts at the time about it...but there is now!

Oct 1st


love this episode !!

Sep 30th

Betsy Hart

I love learning about a virus that I have actually "seen" in real life... this one being so recent makes it more real to me.

Sep 24th

Diane Grillo

this would be good if it wasn't for all the nonsense. what makes these podcasters think we want to hear them talk to each other. drives me nuts. I'm out

Sep 21st

Amanda de Boer

As a Canadian TPWKY fan, the giggling about the number of Lime Disease cases in Canada being 'funny' was kind of offputting. You DO realize, I hope, that despite our country's large geographical size, our POPULATION is significantly smaller than the USA. Canada: 37.06 million vs USA: 327.2 million. Just to give you some perspective the population of the State of California is 39.56 million - there are over two million more people living in that one state than in our entire country.

Sep 20th

Michele Ashlock

Speaking of nutritional deficiencies that look like disease have you looked into pellagra?

Sep 17th

Laderia Murray

I absolutely love you two. I love your macabre sense of humour, your love of curiosity, your appetites to learn and your abject disdain for historical villainy, while still accrediting the advancements their lack of humanity allowed for. I also appreciate your ability to parallel current political and social climates to those of the past and how humanity manages to never to learn from it's own mistakes, or highlight the rare occurrences it manages to. Also, thanks for sacrificing your livers for our education and amusement. Carry on!! Also, I just know you are DYING to know my favorite disease...encephalopathy lethargica. TERRIFYING!!!!

Sep 11th

Kelly Piliere

my dog had rickettsia when we brought him home (didnt show symptoms until about 3 days after we brought him home) and it was so scary! they thought it was an autoimmune disorder at first and he got super anemic. thankfully since it was rickettsia antibiotics and steroids for a few weeks made him all better. when he was about a year old he got tested positive for Lyme (part of the annual blood work for most dogs on Cape Cod, MA) despite us having our yard sprayed for ticks and our dog wearing a flea and tick collar and taking an oral flea and tick medicine. thankfully he's never had any Lyme symptoms but he gets his urine checked now every 6 months to test his kidney function. these tick born diseases are crazy!

Sep 3rd
Reply (1)

Julie Eldredge Colt

Since the gene name starts with CFTR . I wonder if the drugs have been called ***cafter as an expansion of those letters. excellent episode. those ion channel protein mutations cause so many problems!!

Aug 29th
Reply (1)

Cassie Malchak

My mom is a respiratory therapist and she had a cousin who had CF and when my sister and I were babies she would lick our foreheads to see if we tasted salty since it's a sign of CF.

Aug 27th
Reply (1)

Dea Applegate

I really appreciate that you took the time to acknowledge that people are not or should not be identified by their disease and that it is very difficult to understand how someone's life is w a certain disease because of a person's own biased baseline for living. I also really enjoyed listening to his story and perspective of living with CF. I have lupus - it is on the mild end and very manageable but I get a lot of people making assumptions about what I'm able to do or my level of "sickness." People assume that I can't be sick or in pain since I rock climb and make efforts to stay physically active and fit, but they don't see or are aware of the weeks that I don't do anything because it's a struggle just to get out of bed. Or, if I'm not able to do something because I'm having a flare, people don't understand or downplay it because "well you don't look sick." it's very frustrating and would be helpful if people stopped making assumptions about living w a disease.

Aug 20th

Moriah Francis

This is my new favorite podcast! Keep it up guys 😄

Aug 19th
Reply (3)

Georgia Mae

well I'm never eating beef in britain

Aug 17th

Christian McCrary

so good! I love you Erins!

Aug 6th
Reply (1)

We Thanks

Medical Mysteries are fun to hear about

Jul 31st
Reply (1)

Xiao Forrest

About the dog/cat thing: I was thinking about this the other day and I had a mini revelation. I relate more to cats, however, I think dogs bring out the parts of myself that I want to encourage (energetic, optimistic, lots of walking, socially outgoing etc.) Just some thoughts haha

Jul 26th
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