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This Podcast Will Kill You podcast

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

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

 

#106

Ep 84 West Nile virus: The Crow in the Coal Mine

It’s the summer of 1999 in New York City, and everyone's looking towards the future, towards millennium parties and potential Y2K catastrophes. But if they turned their eyes to the streets around and skies above, they might have seen something else on the horizon, something much more real and alarming than a Y2K glitch: the arrival of West Nile virus. In this episode, we take a close look at the virus whose recent emergence in the Western Hemisphere serves as a crucial reminder of how pathogens know no political boundaries and how working across disciplines is the only way to effectively control and prevent disease outbreaks. We are also so excited to be joined by Dr. Sarah Wheeler, Biologist at Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, who talks us through the ecology of this mosquito-borne disease and shares the birds-eye view of the situation in North America. Last but certainly not least, we round out this episode with a delightful and informative song about West Nile virus: West Nile Story by MC Bugg-Z and the Fairfax County Health Department. Check out this action-packed episode wherever you get your podcasts! See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

19 Oct 2021

1 HR 46 MINS

1:46:24

19 Oct 2021


#105

Ep 83 Diabetes: Short & Sweet

Almost everyone is familiar with diabetes mellitus in some way. Whether we know family or friends that have been diagnosed with the condition or we’re directly impacted ourselves, diabetes mellitus has become a household name. And this is perhaps not surprising given its extremely high prevalence - nearly 9% of adults around the globe are estimated to live with the disease. But although we may know someone with diabetes, how much do we know about diabetes itself? How does it work? Why does it cause the acute symptoms and long-term complications it does? Where does an infamous scientific rivalry fit into the story of diabetes? How long have humans been dealing with this disease, and how far has treatment come since the early days of diabetes? And importantly, how has our perception and portrayal of diabetes changed over the course of its history? In this episode, we seek to answer all these questions and many more about the globally-prevalent diabetes mellitus. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

05 Oct 2021

1 HR 51 MINS

1:51:36

05 Oct 2021


#104

Ep 82 Anthrax: The Hardcore Spore

Twenty years ago this month, letters containing Bacillus anthracis spores were mailed to various politicians and news media offices in the US, resulting in illness, death, and a widespread fear that transformed anthrax from an agricultural disease or occupational hazard into a potential weapon of bioterrorism. In this episode, we explore the many dimensions of anthrax, from the different ways B. anthracis can cause disease to the incredibly long and varied history of the pathogen, a history of which bioterrorism is only a very recent part. Adding to anthrax’s multifaceted nature is the fact that B. anthracis is an environmental pathogen, one that can greatly impact livestock and wild animals, which requires collaboration across fields to effectively identify and control anthrax outbreaks. To help us explore this pathogen from a One Health perspective, we were so thrilled to chat with Dr. Johanna Salzer, Veterinary Medical Officer in the Bacterial Special Pathogens Branch at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who filled us in on the veterinary side of anthrax, and Morgan Walker, spatial epidemiologist at the University of Florida, who talked us through the environmental factors that affect B. anthracis distribution and emergence. Tune in for a much more than surface-level look at this spore-forming pathogen. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

21 Sep 2021

1 HR 54 MINS

1:54:26

21 Sep 2021


#103

Ep 81 Chagas disease: The Reverse Triple Discovery

A nighttime “kiss” from a bug that casts a curse on its recipient in the form of a lifelong, and possibly fatal, illness. No, this isn’t some half-remembered fairy tale. It’s the true story of Chagas disease, caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and transmitted by many species of triatomines (aka kissing bugs). In this episode, we take you through the utterly complicated biology of Chagas disease in its acute and chronic forms, the surprising evolutionary and historical background of this parasite and the scientist for whom it’s named, and finally the grim reality that is the global status of Chagas disease today.  The dizzying ecological complexity and pathophysiological mystery of this disease makes it a challenge to study, and the lack of funding only compounds the issue; Chagas disease bears the dubious distinction of the most neglected of all the neglected tropical diseases. In spite of this, many people are dedicated to easing the global burden of Chagas disease, and we were delighted to interview two of these Chagas champions for this episode. Daisy Hernandez, Associate Professor at Miami University, joins us to discuss the inspiration for her recent book The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Family, an Insect, and a Nation’s Neglect of a Deadly Disease, and Dr. Sarah Hamer, Associate Professor at Texas A&M University, delves into the ecological aspects of this disease and shares the incredible community science program that raises awareness about T. cruzi and the bugs that transmit it. To learn more, check out the links below: Daisy Hernandez: website, Twitter (@daisyhernandez), Instagram (@iamdazeher), Facebook  Dr. Sarah Hamer: lab website, lab Twitter (@hamer_lab), Community Science Program See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

07 Sep 2021

1 HR 49 MINS

1:49:25

07 Sep 2021


#102

Ep 80 Dysentery loves a disaster

While many of us know how deadly dysentery can be from playing countless hours of The Oregon Trail, there’s only so much that the classic game covered regarding this multifaceted disease. For instance, did you know that it can be caused by multiple pathogenic microbes? Or that it is and always has been closely associated with warfare and armies? Or that it remains one of the leading causes of death globally for children under five? In this episode all about dysentery, we pick up where The Oregon Trail left off. Tune in to hear facts about ancient toilets and a list of famous people killed by the disease and to learn how dysentery isn’t just about diarrhea and how the “bloody flux” lives up to its (horrible) colorful name. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

24 Aug 2021

1 HR 19 MINS

1:19:54

24 Aug 2021


#101

Ep 79 Hemophilia: A Hemorrhagic Disposition

Bumps and bruises. Cuts and scrapes. Gashes and gouges. Injuries small and large are familiar to all of us, but what happens when part of our body’s innate healing ability is disrupted? What happens, for instance, when the blood just won’t stop flowing? In this episode, we explore one of the most common of these disruptions: the clotting disorder known as hemophilia. From the physiological nitty gritty on how blood clotting actually works to the long history, at times both tragic and triumphant, of the “royal disease”, we trace the story of hemophilia, ending with a hopeful look towards the future.  See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

10 Aug 2021

1 HR 32 MINS

1:32:13

10 Aug 2021


#100

Ep 78 Bartonella: Keep Calm and Carrión

“Let’s do Bartonella next,” we said. “It’ll be straightforward and fun,” we promised ourselves. Turns out we were half right. In this fun but not quite straightforward episode, we tackle not one, not two, but three different species of Bartonella bacteria that can cause disease in humans: Bartonella bacilliformis (Carrión’s disease), B. quintana (trench fever), B. henselae (cat scratch disease). Essentially, we’re giving you three mini-turned-maxisodes for the price of one! For each pathogen, we review its surprisingly strange biology, take a brief tour of its history, and wrap up with a look at its current status across the globe, comparing and contrasting along the way. By the end of this ride, you’ll be bursting with Bartonella trivia, in awe of dental pulp, and scratching your head about the transmission of cat scratch fever. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

27 Jul 2021

1 HR 27 MINS

1:27:10

27 Jul 2021


#99

Ep 77 Legionnaires' Disease: A Killer Mist

Celebration wasn’t the only thing in the air in Philadelphia in July of 1976. Over the course of several days during the 58th Annual Convention of the American Legion, a killer mist spewed out of the air conditioning units throughout the building and into the sidewalks nearby. The result was a large outbreak of unexplained febrile pneumonia, often fatal, that would acquire the name Legionnaires’ Disease. What was causing this terrifying disease and how could it be stopped? In this episode, we walk through the massive investigation into this outbreak that would lead to the discovery of the causative agent, Legionella pneumophila, and explore the biology of this mysterious pathogen. We wrap up the episode with a look at the current status of Legionnaires’ Disease and a potentially grim forecast for its prevalence as the world slowly gets back to normal. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

13 Jul 2021

1 HR 11 MINS

1:11:23

13 Jul 2021


#98

Ep 76 Chickenpox: There's always a 'but'

Ah, chickenpox, that pesky old childhood illness. And that’s all it is, right? Just a mild, routine infection that we all used to catch until the vaccine came around? Not quite. In this episode, we learn that, when it comes to the varicella-zoster virus, not everything is as it seems. We explore the complex nature of this virus, how it can make you kinda sick and then how it can make you really, really sick. After that, we dive into the evolutionary origins of this virus and the different infections it causes (spoiler alert: shingles as a viral survival strategy?!). And finally we trace its human history from discovery to vaccine to where we stand with chickenpox and shingles today. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

29 Jun 2021

1 HR 15 MINS

1:15:23

29 Jun 2021


#97

Ep 75 Mercury: The cost of progress

When you think of mercury, what springs to mind? Is it the entrancing drop of shimmery liquid that flows from a broken thermometer, giving the metal the name quicksilver? Or is it the warnings of overconsumption of fish and bioaccumulation? Or perhaps it’s the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland? The story of mercury, in both its biology as well as its history, is vast and varied, and in this episode, we attempt to piece together a picture of this heavy metal. We first delve into the pathophysiological effects of the different forms of mercury exposure on the body, and then take a narrow tour of the metal’s history, focusing primarily on Minamata disease, before wrapping it all up with a look at just how widespread mercury contamination is today. Although the relationship between humans and mercury is as old as history itself, there are still so many lessons to be learned from it, especially “what is the true cost of progress?”. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

15 Jun 2021

1 HR 22 MINS

1:22:59

15 Jun 2021


#96

COVID-19 Chapter 20: Looking forward by looking back

Over the past year and a half, we have learned so much about this virus, but there is still more to know. There always will be. We have seen the widespread impacts that the pandemic has had on all facets of society, but there is still more to see. There always will be. The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and its effects will continue to be felt for years to come. What can we expect in a post-pandemic future? Frankly, no one knows. But we can make some guesses based on what we have already seen. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, one of our best reference points for comparison has been, of course, the deadly and devastating 1918 influenza pandemic. What can that pandemic tell us about our own uncertain future, and where do comparisons simply fall short? Did the lessons learned from the 1918 pandemic change the course of COVID-19? Or were we doomed to repeat history? To help us look forward by looking back, we are so excited to be joined by John Barry, award-winning and New York Times best-selling author of books such as The Great Influenza: The story of the deadliest pandemic in history (interview recorded May 25, 2021). This marks the tentative final episode in our Anatomy of a Pandemic series on the COVID-19 pandemic. There is still more ground to cover (there always will be), and it’s entirely possible we’ll produce additional episodes in the future, but this is it for now. Thank you to everyone who has been interviewed, who has sent in their firsthand account, and who has listened. We appreciate all of you so very much. To wrap up this episode as we always do, we discuss 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:  Can you remind us of some of the similarities as well as some of the differences between the COVID-19 pandemic and the 1918 influenza pandemic? The COVID-19 pandemic has been highly politicized, both in the US and elsewhere. Did we see a similar intersection of politics and public health in 1918, and if so, how did that affect both the way that pandemic played out as well as the aftermath? You wrote that the single most important thing for our society and our governments to do in this pandemic was to tell the truth. How did countries fail to tell the truth in 1918? And how would you rate our honesty during this present pandemic? How do today’s methods of science communication differ from the ways the public got their public health information back in 1918? Was there a similar issue with rampant disinformation campaigns? How did the 1918 influenza affect the public health infrastructure in the US? Did it change the general perception of the role of public health? During the 1918 pandemic did we see countries working together to try and solve the influenza crisis, or did we see intense nationalism due to the ongoing war? After the 1918 pandemic came the Roaring Twenties, with its dramatic lifestyle change and economic growth. Could you talk about what this period looked like and how much of it came as a reaction to the end of the 1918 influenza pandemic and WWI?  How long did the 1918 pandemic live in our collective consciousness as a vivid reality? Given its scale and duration, do you think this pandemic will live in our collective consciousness more vividly? Can you talk about some of the limitations in applying lessons learned from the 1918 influenza pandemic to today’s reality? What are some things that you hope we keep from this pandemic, either personally or as a society? See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

08 Jun 2021

1 HR 06 MINS

1:06:46

08 Jun 2021


#95

Ep 74 Naegleria fowleri: The "brain-eating amoeba"

Every summer, when the warm weather rolls around and the local ponds and lakes heat up enough for a tempting dip, remember that there may be something else lurking in those waters besides the people looking to cool off. Naegleria fowleri, the topic of today’s episode, makes its home in warm, fresh waters, and that’s mostly where it stays, until a chance encounter between human and amoeba introduces it to a new locale: the brain. In this episode, we explore the brutal biology of the so-called ‘brain-eating amoeba’, walk through its recent but global history, and discuss the possible future of this pathogen, both good (e.g. treatments, awareness) and bad (e.g. climate change, land-use change).  Even though this is a very rare disease, its deadly potential is deeply felt by those impacted by it. We are very grateful to Dr. Sandra Gompf, who shares her story of how her son Philip’s fatal encounter with Naegleria fowleri led her to create Amoeba Season, a Philip T Gompf Memorial Fund for Infectious Disease Research project. You can learn more about Dr. Gompf’s story on her website, amoeba-season.com, where you can also find many helpful links for raising awareness, fact sheets on amoebic meningitis, and a wonderful set of resources for healthcare professionals. As Dr. Gompf says, amoebic meningitis is 99% fatal but 100% preventable, and the best method of prevention is knowledge - Amoeba Season is a great place to start. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

01 Jun 2021

1 HR 05 MINS

1:05:07

01 Jun 2021


#94

COVID-19 Chapter 19: Your Stories

From virology to vaccines, from education to economics, and from disparities to disease, our Anatomy of a Pandemic series has covered many different aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With such a broad range of topics and an often birds-eye view of the situation, it can be easy to forget that this is a large-scale event happening to individual people. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are widespread but also deeply personal and absolutely unique. In this episode, we wanted to take this opportunity to recognize this aspect by featuring firsthand accounts that we have received from listeners over the last several months sharing their pandemic experiences. We have no expert to feature for this episode because, by this point, we are all experts in our own COVID-19 stories. Which stories resonate with you? Which ones surprise you? Let us know! And a huge thank you again to everyone who has shared their firsthand accounts with us - we feel so honored to hear them. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

25 May 2021

57 MINS

57:33

25 May 2021


#93

Ep 73 Puerperal Fever: Seriously, wash your hands

Our sign-off, “wash your hands, ya filthy animals”, has never been more appropriate than with this episode on puerperal or childbed fever, now known as maternal peripartum infections. It took us over seventy episodes to get here, but today we finally tell the tragic story of Ignác Semmelweis, the “father of hand hygiene” and “savior of mothers”, whose keen observations and devotion to his patients earned him ridicule in his time and respect in ours. But the tragedy of this episode’s topic doesn’t reside solely in the past. Today maternal peripartum infections are still a major contributor to maternal morbidity and mortality worldwide, and, surprise surprise, the impact is not equally felt across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Join us as we dive into this historically rich, medically complicated, and still appallingly prevalent group of infections. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

18 May 2021

1 HR 26 MINS

1:26:16

18 May 2021


#92

COVID-19 Chapter 18: Conservation & Pandemics

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all of our lives in incredibly varied ways, with no two experiences exactly alike. Despite this, we all probably share the same thought: how can we stop this from happening again? In this episode of our Anatomy of a Pandemic series, we ask that question in the context of wildlife conservation. Why is protecting biodiversity synonymous with protecting our own health? If spillover events themselves are inevitable, how can we limit the likelihood that they will become epidemics or pandemics? Where do commercial wildlife markets and subsistence hunting fit into the equation? To help us answer these questions and more, we are thrilled to be joined by Dr. Chris Walzer, Executive Director of Health at the Wildlife Conservation Society (interview recorded April 6, 2021). And for more information on the topics discussed, check out the WCS’s COVID-19 News and Information page and read a recent Op-Ed piece by Dr. Susan Lieberman and Dr. Christian Walzer about why biodiversity is crucial for preventing pandemics.  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: Now that we are over a year into this pandemic, what do we know about the sequence of events that led to this pandemic?  People have been studying spillovers and the emergence of novel viruses for a long time and have been saying that a pandemic like this was inevitable. So what did we do wrong on a national or international level? What things did we do right, or what things did we adequately prepare for during this pandemic?  What are the ways in which we’ve made scientific progress or the ways in which the world has fundamentally changed that have allowed this pandemic to play out differently than it could have 20 years ago?  Can you talk us through some of the nuance in the interactions between commercial wildlife markets, spillover events, and wildlife hunting for subsistence purposes? How predictable are spillover events themselves? Or perhaps, how predictable are the scenarios that would increase risks for spillover and how predictable are the events that follow? Since another spillover event could happen at almost any time, what measures do we have in place to prevent these events from turning into another pandemic? Where does wildlife and forest conservation fit into this equation?  Pandemic preparedness and pandemic response are two different things. How do these two aspects of dealing with a pandemic differ and who is involved in each of these efforts? What are people who study this the most concerned about when it comes to the next pandemic? What are the areas in which we still have big improvements to make in how we prepare for or predict or try to prevent pandemics based on what we’ve learned during this one? What do you hope we keep or learn from this pandemic, either personally or as a society? See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

11 May 2021

1 HR 01 MINS

1:01:02

11 May 2021


#91

Ep 72 White-Nose Syndrome: How deep is your torpor?

A fluffy white fungus and a little brown bat. A deafening silence and an uncertain future. In this episode, we explore one of the most devastating wildlife diseases in recent times, white-nose syndrome. Since its debut in North America in 2006, this fungal pathogen has spread across much of the continent, leaving millions of dead bats in its wake. Why is it so deadly? Which bats are at risk? Where did it come from? And most importantly, what can we do about it? We attempt to answer these questions and more about this pernicious pathogen, and we are so delighted to be joined by Dr. Winifred Frick, Chief Scientist at Bat Conservation International and Associate Research Professor at UC Santa Cruz, who helps us take a closer look at the ecology and impact of this disease on North American bat populations. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

04 May 2021

1 HR 24 MINS

1:24:04

04 May 2021


#90

COVID-19 Chapter 17: Frontline Mental Health

This pandemic has certainly taken its toll on all of us, but one group that has been particularly hard hit are those who have been on the front lines, continuing to take care of patients even when PPE was running low or nonexistent, even when there were no more ICU beds available. During both non-pandemic and pandemic times, physicians and other healthcare workers experience a tremendous deal of stress and pressure that can lead to depression, isolation, anxiety, moral injury, and other mental health issues. In this episode of our Anatomy of a Pandemic series, we seek to understand the factors contributing to the prevalence of these mental health issues among healthcare workers, the stigma that often prevents the seeking of treatment, the role that the COVID-19 pandemic has played in exacerbating these issues, and the ways in which the medical system has done or can do better. We are very excited to be joined by Michael Myers, MD (interview recorded March 29, 2021), psychiatrist and Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at SUNY-Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn, NY and author of several books, including his latest, Becoming a Doctors’ Doctor: A Memoir. 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: How did you become interested in the field of physician mental health, and what made you choose to pursue it? Can you talk us through some of the challenges healthcare workers face and what impact they have on their mental health? Does this field experience things such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide at higher rates than the general public? What does the stigma surrounding mental illness look like in the medical field and how does it contribute to the high rate of mental health issues in healthcare workers? Can you talk a bit about where these mental health issues among healthcare workers originate and how each step of medical training and beyond contributes to the problem? How much of this is a problem unique to the US and how much of it is universal? What are some of those changes you have seen throughout your thirty-five year career as a psychiatrist primarily treating other physicians? How have we gotten better, and what are the areas in which we have failed to make improvements? How do these public health crises, especially COVID-19, amplify the issues that physicians are already facing in terms of mental health? Can you talk a bit about the “healthcare heroes” narrative and how damaging it can be? What is some of the fallout you think we can expect to see in the long-term from the COVID-19 pandemic? As family members or friends or partners of healthcare workers, what are worrying signs that we can look out for? How do we recognize these signs in ourselves as well? For those who maybe have friends or partners or family members who are frontline health workers, what are some of the ways in which we can help and provide meaningful support during these times as well as in non pandemic times? What do you feel are the biggest failings of the medical system in terms of emotional and mental health support for those in medicine? How can we begin to change things? What role should medical school play? Hospitals? Other physicians? See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

27 Apr 2021

1 HR 08 MINS

1:08:38

27 Apr 2021


#89

Ep 71 Onchocerciasis/River Blindness: So many mysteries

In this classic TPWKY episode we travel down rivers and into worm-laden nodes as we take a look at the complex world of Onchocerca volvulus, the vector-borne parasite that causes river blindness. Join us as we learn why the name ‘river blindness’ captures only one dimension of the devastation caused by this parasite, how the short evolutionary history of this worm is at once surprising and enlightening, and why grasping the disease ecology of this system has been crucial in successful control efforts. As a bonus, if you tune in, you’ll get to hear how on earth The J. Geils Band fits into this story and the integral role that dog digestion has played in the history of this parasite. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

20 Apr 2021

1 HR 13 MINS

1:13:18

20 Apr 2021


#88

COVID-19 Chapter 16: Disparities, Take 2

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted racial and ethnic minorities, especially here in the United States. Higher infection, hospitalization, and death rates due to COVID-19 have been observed for historically marginalized groups, and the harmful effects stem beyond those relating to health, with higher unemployment and food and housing insecurity also reported. Yet these disparities did not emerge anew from this current pandemic; rather, this pandemic has served to amplify existing structural inequalities in the healthcare, educational, legal, and housing systems, among others. In this episode of our Anatomy of a Pandemic series, we explore the deeply entrenched roots of racial disparities in the US, how our narrow focus on outcomes often fails to capture the complex causes of inequalities, and ways in which we can begin to work towards health equity in this country. We are so thrilled to be joined by Harriet Washington (@haw95) (interview recorded March 10, 2021), writer and medical ethicist, whose groundbreaking work on this subject through books such as Medical Apartheid, A Terrible Thing to Waste, Carte Blanche, and others has led to much-deserved critical acclaim. 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: Can you tell us a bit about your new book, Carte Blanche: The Erosion of Medical Consent, and what inspired you to write it? Although health disparities have been around forever, it was only within the last few decades that the term itself was coined, and it’s often only vaguely defined. Would you mind describing what we mean when we talk about health disparities? Can you talk a bit about how it’s not just being able to go to a doctor or afford a doctor, but how things like access to education, chronic stress, and environmental justice interact with and compound each other when it comes to health disparities? What are some of the different ways that we measure health disparities?  Can you talk about why it is important to understand the context of these disparate outcomes?  Can you talk about the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on communities that were already facing significant barriers to healthcare? How has the narrative of ‘race-based medicine’ shown up in discussions of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on certain groups of people? How can we increase health equity in this country? What can we do at an individual level to help, and what are some policies at the state or national level that could help narrow this gap? How can the medical establishment work to earn back the trust of these communities that we have historically disenfranchised (and in many ways continue to disenfranchise) when it comes to health? See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

13 Apr 2021

1 HR 03 MINS

1:03:52

13 Apr 2021


#87

Ep 70 Henrietta Lacks: HeLa, There, & Everywhere

Of the many topics our podcast has covered in the past, from smallpox to scurvy, vaccines to birth control and beyond, one factor has linked nearly all of them: HeLa cells. These cells and the woman from whom they were taken have often remained behind the scenes in the coverage of these topics, but they have nevertheless been absolutely fundamental in the development of technologies, the advancement of knowledge, and the discussions of ethics, ownership, and informed consent. In this week’s episode, we want to do more than acknowledge the contribution of Henrietta Lacks and her cells to the field of biomedical science. We want to explore what it is about HeLa cells and other cell lines that makes them ‘immortal’. We want to learn what Henrietta was like as a person. We want to ask how it was possible for her cells to be taken from her without her consent or knowledge. And we want to share the tremendous impact Henrietta and her cells have made and continue to make on our world in so many ways. For more information about the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, check out the website. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

06 Apr 2021

1 HR 13 MINS

1:13:22

06 Apr 2021


#86

COVID-19 Chapter 15: Disease, Take 2

We’re over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and our understanding of this virus and the disease it causes has grown immensely. And while we’ve learned so much about the spectrum of disease severity, the wide array of symptoms, and the effectiveness of various treatments, there is still so much we are discovering about this illness. In this installment of our Anatomy of a Pandemic series covering the COVID-19 pandemic, we review what we currently know about the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as emerging questions such as what exactly is long COVID or how well do vaccines work against the new variants? To take us through this massive topic, we enlisted the help of two experts, Dr. Krutika Kuppalli (@KrutikaKuppalli), infectious diseases physician and assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina (also featured in Ch. 3: Control of this series), and Dr. Jason Kindrachuk (@KindrachukJason), assistant professor and Canada research chair in molecular pathogenesis and emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba (interview recorded March 16, 2021). As always, we wrap up the episode by discussing the top five things we learned from our experts. To help you get a better idea of the topics covered in this episode, we’ve listed the questions below: How much does the infectious dose, or the amount of virus a person is exposed to, play a role in whether they will get the disease and/or how severe the disease might be? How soon after being exposed does someone become infectious and how does that infectivity change over the course of infection? How much does infectiousness or viral shedding vary across disease severity? Are people who are severely infected more contagious than those who are asymptomatic? Could you walk us through the spectrum of COVID-19 in terms of symptoms or clinical observations, touching on first asymptomatic, then mild, then moderate or severe cases? What proportion of cases are severe vs mild vs asymptomatic? How much do symptoms or the general course of disease vary from person to person? How predictable is this virus? Can you talk about some of the lingering effects of infection and how frequently long COVID seems to occur? How has our estimate of the case fatality rate changed over this pandemic? Can you talk about some of the risk factors that seem to be associated with severe infections? Is there any link between blood type and risk of infection? What do we know about pregnancy and infection with COVID-19? Do risks regarding pregnancy vary depending on when during pregnancy someone may be exposed or infected?  What do we know about the duration or nature of immunity and the risk of reinfection? How has treatment for COVID-19 cases changed throughout this pandemic? Are we any better at treating patients with severe cases now than we were eight or so months ago? What do we know at this point about the vaccine candidates in terms of their effectiveness against new variants that have emerged? What does it mean if these vaccines are slightly less effective against some variants than others? What do the latest studies show about vaccines preventing asymptomatic as well as symptomatic infection? What is something you hope to take away from this pandemic, either on a personal level or as a society? See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

30 Mar 2021

1 HR 02 MINS

1:02:29

30 Mar 2021


#85

Ep 69 Huntington’s disease: Let’s talk frankly

Despite being one of the earliest recognized genetic diseases, many aspects of Huntington’s disease remain shrouded in mystery. This stems in part from our limited grasp on how our own minds work but also from the dark history of Huntington’s disease and the shame and silence that accompanied it for so long. In this episode, we attempt to bring what we know about Huntington’s disease into the light, to talk frankly about the characteristics and progression of this hereditary disease, the role of eugenics in creating and promoting the stigma surrounding it, the ethical considerations surrounding genetic testing, and the medical and scientific advancements that give us reason to hope. And we are so grateful to the provider of our firsthand account for sharing their perspective on what it’s like to be diagnosed with this disease. Tune in for all this and more. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

23 Mar 2021

1 HR 25 MINS

1:25:24

23 Mar 2021


#84

Ep 68 Coccidioidomycosis: It’s never a spider bite

Don’t be daunted by the length of this disease name or just how difficult it looks to pronounce. By the end of the episode, you’ll be saying it right along with us, and bonus, you’ll also be armed with a whole bunch of excellent trivia about this fascinating fungal disease. In this episode, we dive right into all things coccidioidomycosis, also known as Valley fever, which also happens to be the first human fungal pathogen we’ve covered. We’ll walk you through its unusual dual natured lifecycle, its somewhat recent but surprisingly rich history, and the present threat it poses, especially in light of climate change and the United States prison system. This fungus is much more amongus than you may have suspected. We are also so lucky to be joined by Tori, who shared with us her firsthand account of contracting this fierce fungus. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

09 Mar 2021

1 HR 19 MINS

1:19:39

09 Mar 2021


#83

Ep 67 HPV: My wart be with you

The world of human papillomaviruses is vast and varied, and causing cervical cancer is just one of the many roles these viruses can take on. From their carcinogenic tendencies to their more benign wart-forming ways, this episode explores what these tiny viruses have taught us about how our bodies prevent cancer, how imaginative old timey cures for warts can be, how slow acceptance of the facts and a failure in marketing led to a delayed and impaired vaccine uptake, and so much more. You could say we’re covering all aspects of this highly-requested topic, warts and all. The historical stigma of cancer as a “woman’s disease”? Check. What’s actually inside a wart? Check. The possible origins of a mythical creature? Check. The massive disparity in vaccine access between high- and low-income countries? Check. Tune in to hear it all. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

23 Feb 2021

1 HR 27 MINS

1:27:00

23 Feb 2021


#82

Ep 66 The Outs and Ins of Organ Transplantation

From the first skin grafts to the future of 3D printed organs, the science of organ transplantation has always seemed like something out of a sci-fi novel. How on earth can an organ from one person be removed and successfully placed into another person? Who first attempted such a monumental feat, and how long did it take for trial and error to become trial and success? Our episode this week seeks to answer these questions and so many more as we tackle the massive topic of organ transplantation. We begin by examining the immunological nitty gritty of transplant science and follow that up with the long and storied history of transplants. We round things out with a look at the numbers, which show the unfortunate reality that demand far outpaces availability, a reality that may soon be improved with innovative approaches towards bioengineering. And we are so excited to be joined by two fantastic guests, Carol Offen and Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Crais, who share their stories of what it’s like to donate or receive a kidney.  Carol, who is a NKF Kidney Advocacy Committee member, has a great website that includes many resources where you can learn more about kidney donation as well as keep an eye out for Carol and Betsy’s book, The Greatest Gift: The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation. You can also follow Carol on Twitter (@CarolOffen) and through her advocacy page on Facebook. We will also post additional links for where to learn more about organ donation and advocacy work on our website. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. ... Read more

09 Feb 2021

1 HR 41 MINS

1:41:38

09 Feb 2021


#81

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. ... Read more

26 Jan 2021

1 HR 19 MINS

1:19:25

26 Jan 2021