Richard Knox

Since he joined NPR in 2000, Knox has covered a broad range of issues and events in public health, medicine, and science. His reports can be heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Talk of the Nation, and newscasts.

Among other things, Knox's NPR reports have examined the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa, North America, and the Caribbean; anthrax terrorism; smallpox and other bioterrorism preparedness issues; the rising cost of medical care; early detection of lung cancer; community caregiving; music and the brain; and the SARS epidemic.

Before joining NPR, Knox covered medicine and health for The Boston Globe. His award-winning 1995 articles on medical errors are considered landmarks in the national movement to prevent medical mistakes. Knox is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Columbia University. He has held yearlong fellowships at Stanford and Harvard Universities, and is the author of a 1993 book on Germany's health care system.

He and his wife Jean, an editor, live in Boston. They have two daughters.

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Shots - Health News
3:31 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

Triple Threat: Middle East Respiratory Virus And 2 Bird Flus

Men outside a hospital in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, wear surgical masks as a precaution against infection with a coronavirus.
Stringer Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 7:11 am

The World Health Organization is warning health care workers everywhere to suspect a disease called Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, whenever they see a case of unexplained pneumonia.

Monday's warning comes at the end of a six-day WHO investigation in Saudi Arabia, where 40 of the 55 cases of the respiratory disease have occurred. Sixty percent of those people with known infections died.

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Shots - Health News
7:59 am
Thu June 6, 2013

NIH Chief Rejects Ethics Critique Of Preemie Study

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins contested criticism that researchers running a study of premature infants didn't adequately advise parents about the risks.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 7:26 am

The chief of the National Institutes of Health is disavowing a ruling from the government office that oversees the ethics of human research.

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Shots - Health News
1:19 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Obama Administration Seeks To Ease Approvals For Antibiotics

These staph bacteria are resistant to vancomycin, an antibiotic that is one of the last lines of defense.
Janice Haney Carr CDC

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 4:15 pm

Every day in hospitals all over America, thousands of patients die of infections that used to be curable. But the antibiotics used to treat them aren't working anymore.

It's called drug resistance, and it's largely a consequence of antibiotics overuse. The more germs are exposed to antibiotics, the faster they mutate to evade being vanquished.

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Shots - Health News
2:34 am
Mon June 3, 2013

A Boston Family's Struggle With TB Reveals A Stubborn Foe

Michelle Williams (center) and two daughters visit the grave of her mother, Judy Williams, at Fairview Cemetery in Hyde Park, Mass., on May 11. Judy died in 2011.
Ellen Webber for NPR

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 8:10 am

Thanks to gold-standard tuberculosis treatment and prevention programs, cases of TB in the United States have declined every year for the past two decades — to the lowest level ever.

But TB's course through the Williams family in Boston shows that no nation can afford to relax its efforts to find, treat and prevent TB. It's just too sneaky and stubborn an adversary.

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Shots - Health News
1:15 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

Young Women With Breast Cancer Opting For Mastectomy

Toborcia Bedgood performs a mammogram to screen for breast cancer at the Elizabeth Center for Cancer Detection in Los Angeles in 2010.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Most women diagnosed with breast cancer when they're 40 or younger are choosing mastectomy rather than more limited and breast-conserving lumpectomy plus radiation, a study of women in Massachusetts finds.

Moreover, most of those choosing mastectomy elect to have the other, noncancerous breast removed, too.

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Shots - Health News
2:52 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Researchers Find Bird Flu Is Contagious Among Ferrets

Of ferrets, men and bird flu.
iStockphoto.com

Scientists have completed the first assessments of how readily the H7N9 flu virus in China can pass among ferrets and pigs. The mammals provide the best inkling of how dangerous these bugs may become for humans.

The news is both bad and good. They've found the new bird virus is easily passed between ferrets sharing the same cage.

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Shots - Health News
1:06 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

Middle East Virus Spreads Between Hospitalized Patients

The new coronavirus has a crown of tentacles on its surface when viewed under the microscope.
NIAID/RML

It's been eight months since a Saudi Arabian doctor described a previously unknown virus related to SARS. And for most of that time only germ geeks paid much attention.

But in the past few days the new virus — which some would like to call MERS-CoV, for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus — has been making up for lost time.

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Shots - Health News
1:49 am
Wed May 8, 2013

Officials Prepare For Another Flu Pandemic — Just In Case

Scientists in the U.S. are growing the H7N9 virus in the laboratory to help with vaccine development.
James Gathany CDC/Douglas E. Jordan

Originally published on Thu May 9, 2013 10:43 am

There's been a buzz of activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta since scientists got their first samples of a new bird flu virus from China four weeks ago.

Already they've prepared "seed strains" of the virus, called H7N9, and distributed them to vaccine manufacturers so the companies can grow them up and make them into experimental flu vaccine.

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Shots - Health News
2:03 am
Thu May 2, 2013

Recovery Begins For Mother, Daughter Injured In Boston

Celeste Corcoran is transported to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on April 28.
Ellen Webber for NPR

Originally published on Fri May 3, 2013 3:19 pm

The number of Boston bombing victims still in the hospital dropped to 19 as of Wednesday evening. The great majority have gone home or to a rehab facility.

That's what has happened with Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, a mother-daughter pair who ended up in the same hospital room after being struck down by the first marathon bomb blast.

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Shots - Health News
2:17 am
Wed May 1, 2013

Mother And Daughter Injured In Boston Bombing Face New Future

Celeste Corcoran and her daughter, Sydney, were injured in the Boston Marathon bombings.
Ellen Webber for NPR

Originally published on Thu May 2, 2013 10:59 am

Forty-seven-year-old Celeste Corcoran is propped up in her hospital bed. In a nearby window is a forest of blooming white orchids from well-wishers. On the opposite wall, a big banner proclaims "Corcoran Strong."

She's recalling how thrilled she was to be near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, waiting for her sister Carmen Accabo to run by. "I just remember standing there, wanting to be as close as I could to catch her," Corcoran says. "I really just needed to see her face."

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Shots - Health News
11:27 am
Fri April 26, 2013

Failure Of Latest HIV Vaccine Test: A 'Huge Disappointment'

The green dots are HIV virus particles on a human white blood cell.
CDC

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 12:14 pm

The largest current study of an AIDS vaccine, involving 2,500 people, is being stopped.

After an oversight committee took a preliminary peek at the results this past Monday, they concluded there was no way the study would show that the vaccine prevents HIV infection.

Nor would the vaccine suppress the wily virus among people who get infected despite being vaccinated.

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Shots - Health News
4:04 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

Researchers Find Hormone That Grows Insulin-Producing Cells

A microscopy image of a rat pancreas shows the insulin-making cells in green.
Masur Wikimedia.org

The work is only in mice so far, but it sure is intriguing.

A newly found hormone revs up production of cells that make insulin — the very kind that people with advanced diabetes lack.

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Shots - Health News
4:38 am
Fri April 19, 2013

With Bird Flu, 'Right Now, Anything Is Possible'

A health worker collects pigeons from a trap at People's Square in Shanghai, China, earlier this month. So far, workers have tested more than 48,000 animals for the H7N9 flu virus.
ChinaFotoPress Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 19, 2013 8:27 pm

An international dream team of flu experts assembled in China today.

Underscoring the urgency that public health agencies feel about the emergence of a new kind of bird flu, the team is headed by Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization's top influenza scientist.

Before he left Geneva, Fukuda explained the wide-open nature of the investigation in an interview with NPR.

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Explosions At Boston Marathon
7:23 am
Tue April 16, 2013

Boston Doctors Compare Marathon Bomb Injuries To War Wounds

Medical personnel work outside the medical tent in the aftermath of two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. At area hospitals, doctors say they were confronted with the kinds of injuries U.S. troops get in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Elise Amendola AP

Originally published on Wed April 17, 2013 10:26 am

Boston hospitals always staff up their emergency rooms on Marathon Day to care for runners with cramps, dehydration and the occasional heart attack.

But Monday, those hospitals suddenly found themselves with more than 100 traumatized patients — many of them with the kinds of injuries seen more often on a battlefield than a marathon.

Like most big-city hospitals these days, Tufts Medical Center runs regular disaster drills, featuring simulated patients smeared with fake blood.

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Shots - Health News
3:57 am
Sun April 14, 2013

Scientists Race To Stay Ahead Of New Bird Flu Virus

Workers prepare an H7N9 virus detection kit at the Center for Disease Control in Beijing on April 3.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 8:01 am

A precious package arrived at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last Thursday afternoon.

Inside, packed in dry ice to keep it frozen, was a vial containing millions of viruses derived from a 35-year-old Chinese housewife who died last Tuesday of respiratory and kidney failure.

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Shots - Health News
2:15 pm
Wed April 10, 2013

Feds Fault Preemie Researchers For Ethical Lapses

How much oxygen should severely premature infants receive? A study that sought to answer the question has been criticized for not fully informing parents about the risks to their children.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 8:04 am

Federal officials say a large study of premature infants was ethically flawed because doctors didn't inform the babies' parents about increased risks of blindness, brain damage and death.

The study involved more than 1,300 severely premature infants at nearly two dozen medical institutions between 2004 and 2009. The infants were randomly assigned to receive two different levels of oxygen to see which was better at preventing blindness without increasing the risk of neurologic damage or death.

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Shots - Health News
5:04 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Human Cases Of Bird Flu In China Draw Scrutiny

A cockerel walks on a bridge in a residential area of Beijing. The Chinese are beginning to destroy thousands of birds in an effort to stamp out the presumed source of H7N9 infection.
Wang Zhao AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 8, 2013 5:09 pm

Sixteen cases of a new flu around Shanghai have touched off a major effort to determine what kind of threat this new bug might be.

The victims range in age from 4 to 87 years old. Six have died. It is a tragedy for them and their families, but is it a global crisis?

To understand why so few cases are generating so much concern, the first thing to know is that no flu virus like this one — called H7N9 — has ever been known to infect humans before.

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Shots - Health News
2:21 am
Mon April 1, 2013

As Stroke Risk Rises Among Younger Adults, So Does Early Death

When Melissa McCann (left) suffered a stroke in 2007, her twin sister, Terry Blanchard, helped her make a full recovery. McCann is now back to work as a flight nurse with Life Flight at the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
David Wright/Redux Pictures for NPR

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 7:50 am

Most people (including a lot of doctors) think of a stroke as something that happens to old people. But the rate is increasing among those in their 50s, 40s and even younger.

In one recent 10-year period, the rate of strokes in Americans younger than 55 went up 84 percent among whites and 54 percent among blacks. One in 5 strokes now occurs in adults 20 to 55 years old — up from 1 in 8 in the mid-1990s.

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Shots - Health News
12:41 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Catalog Of Gene Markers For Some Cancers Doubles In Size

A microscopic image of prostate cancer. Researchers have found new genetic markers that flag a person's susceptibility to the disease, as well as breast and ovarian cancer.
Otis Brawley National Cancer Institute

The largest gene-probing study ever done has fished out dozens of new genetic markers that flag a person's susceptibility to breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.

The 74 newly discovered genetic variants double the previously known number for these malignancies, all of which are driven by sex hormones.

Underscoring the sheer magnitude of the findings, they're contained in 15 scientific papers published simultaneously by five different journals. The Nature group of journals has collected them all here.

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Shots - Health News
11:39 am
Tue March 19, 2013

Sorting Out The Mammogram Debate: Who Should Get Screened When?

A woman gets a mammogram in Putanges, France.
Mychele Daniau AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 3:21 pm

Mammography outcomes from nearly a million U.S. women suggest which ones under 50 would stand the greatest chance of benefiting from regular screening: those with very dense breasts.

That's been a bone of contention ever since a federal task force declared nearly four years ago that women younger than 50 shouldn't routinely get the test.

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Shots - Health News
2:22 am
Mon March 18, 2013

To Control Asthma, Start With The Home Instead Of The Child

Maria Texeira-Gomes holds a photo of her 5-year-old son, Matheo, who has struggled with asthma nearly all his life.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Tue March 19, 2013 9:36 am

Nothing sends more kids to the hospital than asthma.

So when doctors at Children's Hospital in Boston noticed they kept seeing an unusually high number of asthmatic kids from certain low-income neighborhoods, they wondered if they could do something about the environment these kids were living in.

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Shots - Health News
11:57 am
Fri March 15, 2013

More Patients Keep HIV At Bay Without Antiviral Drugs

An electron micrograph of HIV particles infecting a human T cell. French researchers say they've found 14 patients with so little HIV virus in their blood that the patients have gone into "long-term remission."
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 8:00 am

Just last week AIDS researchers were excited about a Mississippi toddler whose blood has remained free of HIV many months after she stopped getting antiviral drugs – what doctors call a "functional cure."

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Shots - Health News
11:04 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Cardiac Arrest Survivors Have Better Outlook Than Doctors Think

Students at the College of Central Florida in Ocala, Fla., perform CPR on a mock patient.
Bruce Ackerman Ocala Star-Banner /Landov

Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 8:48 am

Every day something like 550 hospitalized Americans suffer cardiac arrest. That's bad news. Only about one in five will live to leave the hospital.

But for the lucky 44,000 a year who are resuscitated and survive, the outlook is much better than expected, authors of a new study say.

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Shots - Health News
5:24 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

Why Relatives Should Be Allowed To Watch CPR On Loved Ones

A recent study finds that relatives present during resuscitation attempts suffer fewer psychological effects later.
istockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 5:32 pm

Picture this: Your spouse or child has collapsed and isn't breathing. You call 911, and the paramedics rush in and take charge. But you are banished to another room while the medical people try to bring your loved one back to life.

It's about the most stressful scene imaginable. And it's what usually happens.

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Shots - Health News
3:34 am
Mon March 11, 2013

Aspirin Vs. Melanoma: Study Suggests Headache Pill Prevents Deadly Skin Cancer

A doctor checks for signs of skin cancer at a free cancer screening day in New York City.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 9:22 am

It's not the first study that finds the lowly aspirin may protect against the deadliest kind of skin cancer, but it is one of the largest.

And it adds to a mounting pile of studies suggesting that cheap, common aspirin lowers the risk of many cancers — of the colon, breast, esophagus, stomach, prostate, bladder and ovary.

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