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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

32 Episodes
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.
Were you stoked about the history and biology of vaccines we covered in part 1, but left with even more questions? Were you really hoping to hear us talk about anti-vaccine sentiment and address misconceptions about vaccines in detail? Did you want even more expert guest insight?! Well then do we have the episode for you! Today, we delve into the history of the “anti-vaccine movement” which, spoiler alert, is nothing new. With the help of Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and Co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development we address some of the most common concerns and questions that arise about vaccines, their safety, and their efficacy. And finally, we hear from Bill Nye The Science Guy about dealing with the challenges of science communication in the modern world when diseases spread as fast as fake news headlines. Y’all. This is the episode you’ve been waiting for. You can follow Dr. Peter Hotez on twitter @PeterHotez and check out his book “Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism” And you can listen to “Science Rules!” the new podcast from Bill Nye the Science Guy, available now on stitcher or wherever you are listening to this podcast!
The wait is finally over: this week we are very excited to bring you the episode we’ve been teasing for weeks: vaccines! This week and next (you don’t have to wait a full two weeks for the next episode!), we are presenting a two-part series on vaccines. In today’s episode, we dive deep into the biology of vaccines, from how they stimulate your (amazing) immune system to protect you, to how they make you into an almost-superhero, shielding the innocents around you from deadly infections. We take you back hundreds, nay, thousands of years to when something akin to vaccination first began, and then we walk along the long road of vaccine development to see just how massive an impact vaccines have had on the modern world. The best part? We are joined by not one, but two experts from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Gail Rodgers and Dr. Padmini Srikantiah explain the process of vaccine development, highlight the challenges of vaccine deployment, and shine a hopeful light on the future of vaccines. And be sure to tune in next week for part 2 where we’ll focus on vaccine hesitancy and address common misconceptions surrounding vaccines in even more depth. For more information on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initiatives, visit: For more information on vaccines currently in development, check out: and, as always, you can find all of the sources we used in this episode on our website:
This bug deserves a big round of applause and not just because it’s nicknamed “The Clap”. Check out this week’s episode to gasp in wonder at the tricks that Neisseria gonorrhoeae uses to tiptoe past your immune system. Then prepare to cringe at some old-timey treatments for the disease while we trace the history of this ancient pathogen. Finally, make sure you have a quarantini or placeborita in hand for when we chat about the not-so-cheery outlook for this particular sexually-transmitted infection. Believe us, this is one episode you’re not gonn(orrhe)a want to miss.
Zika virus may not have as long and storied a history as many diseases we've covered, but in a short time it has managed to make a big impression. Today we'll talk about how Zika wriggled its way out of obscurity and cover its journey from a mosquito's mouth straight to our newspaper headlines. From the first discovery of the virus in a Ugandan jungle, to the heartbreaking effects only recently discovered, to the future of Zika research and vaccine development, we'll fill you in on everything you want to know and then some.
Today we’re taking a bite out of hookworm, our first macroparasite. We start, as all hookworm journeys must, from the dewy grass, where larvae burrow into your exposed flesh and make their long and winding way to your guts, where the eggs of a fortunate few will be immortalized in fossilized poop. It’s a tale of human migration, of failed eradication, and of overburdened populations. So pull up a chair, take off your shoes, and rest your feet in the cool dew-soaked grass. But watch out for the ground itch...Find more from Meramec Valley Girl at and on instagram @meramecvalleygirl
Are you ready to dilate your mind? Or at least your eyes? We hope so, because that means you’re ready for another Poisoncast episode! This week we’re joined by our friend Matt Candeias from In Defense of Plants to chat about Atropa belladonna, a lethal yet beautiful plant that lives up to all of its many names, including deadly nightshade, belladonna, devil’s berries, and naughty man’s cherries (yes, really). We’ll explore the ancient myth, medieval lore, and modern murder that make up this plant’s history, and then we’ll venture into the nervous system to find out what belladonna has to do with fight or flight. Finally, we talk evolution to see how this deadly substance helps out its plant producer. Pour yourself a quarantini and listen up, making sure you’ve added the right berries to the mix, of course.Check out Matt’s website and follow him on twitter @indfnsofplnts!
You’ve seen the recent headlines and heard the news reports, but they’re only part of this deadly virus’s story. This week we’re covering the rest. We take you on a one-of-a-kind tour of measles, exploring how this vaccine-preventable virus can wriggle its way into your cells and cause short-term misery and long-term damage. Then we trace the history of this notorious killer from its bovine beginnings to the devastation it wreaked on unexposed populations. The tour ends with a look at measles by the numbers around the world today. If you take home one souvenir from this tour, let it be gratitude for vaccines!
Comments (94)

dok dicer

that should have been a crossover episode with Behind the Bastards. ^^

Jun 20th

Julie McLaughlin

yelled "SAY COX BLOCKER" for like 3 minutes. success!!!

Jun 13th

Terrence's login computer "Internet"

Julie McLaughlin It's a mild tongue twister!

Jun 22nd

Irene Ullrich Allen

One of my favorite podcasts, it is informative and fun! And I love their level of distain for all things Goop, just like me!

Jun 11th

Christine L

60s..... and up until the 90s in Louisiana. (Episode 27 of Criminal if this is a topic you're interested in. it's pretty good, they interview one of the residents!)

Jun 1st

Kelsey Ouellette

I’ve had this! It was not a good time. I loved listening to the episode and learning all about this disease I’ve already had! I did take the two weeks of anabiotic’s and have been symptom-free for about five years

May 29th

Jess Y

I copied this directly from the internet. These aren't my own words. "Contagion scenario: The deadly disease in the movie is modeled off a combination of influenza and a virus called Nipah, which causes inflammation of the brain and respiratory disease"

May 27th


I share your Podcasts with my like-minded friends BECAUSE THEY ARE SO BRILLIANTLY DONE!!! Thank you for your work, and thank you for your love of epidemiology!!

May 24th

Alex Raplee

All those poor ratties.

May 23rd

Lana Westerfield

Bill Nye! We need teach people critical thinking skills! I couldn't agree with this more!

May 22nd

Jessica Kaiser

I love the new intro song!!!! I need it to be a ringtone or notification:) keep up the great work ladies!

May 17th


Not only do I learn a ton about the episode topics, but the by-play of The Erins is so delightful! I love their reactions and comments because of their love of the science and history for each 'oogie-googie'! Keep them coming.

May 14th

Janie Garza

love the podcast. I am infinitely obsessed with the Ebola virus!!! thank you for being obsessed, too.

Apr 29th

Terrence's login computer "Internet"

Thanks for this. I love to learn about poop diseases and there are far too few good sources for them. was that grammatically correct? I'm sorry. But yes! poop disease! okay. I'm done.

Apr 28th

Alex Raplee

We need to have anti vaxxers listen to you girls. I'm vaccinated and these diseases terrify me.

Apr 25th

Ashley Tommy P

First off, i love your show! I'm so happy you guys did this episode!! 1. On PBS's Victoria, they had an episode about the epidemic in London. 2. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, poop talk was literally our dinner time conversation. I can speak to poop diseases being super shitty (lol), dysentery and giardia specifically. Wash your hands!!! Boil your water!

Apr 24th

Maggie Brown

I know someone who died of prion disease. Horrifying.

Apr 22nd

Danielle Day

I really like this podcast but the recording is so quiet. The 'This is exactly right' at the beginning is SO loud if I keep it at the volume I can hear the Erin's. STEVEN! Please try and fix it!

Apr 19th


Great zika episode. Thank you for such excellent reporting.

Apr 16th


Could leptospirosis make an appearance in the US?

Apr 14th

T. P.

really great show! looking forward to it on my commute. based on flu and black death- one of the girls is a little bit too giggly and a lot of unnessesary noises. but seemed to tone it down in HIV one. but ita their show she can do it how she wants. maybe not sing about black death...

Apr 11th
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