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
4:50 pm
Sat November 3, 2012

Despite Antifungal Treatment, More Woes For Some Meningitis Patients

Originally published on Mon November 5, 2012 7:21 am

The news for patients who had injections of fungus-tainted steroids just keeps getting worse.

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Shots - Health News
5:12 pm
Fri November 2, 2012

Home Health Care Proves Resilient In Face Of Sandy Destruction

Barbara Fleming is evacuated from Bellevue Hospital by Victor Rivera in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in New York on Oct. 31.
Carlo Allegri Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 8:57 pm

One lasting image of Superstorm Sandy will be very sick patients being evacuated from flooded hospitals. But less visible are thousands of patients who rely on visiting nurses and home health aides for care ranging from bathing and feeding to oxygen and ventilators.

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Shots - Health News
5:13 pm
Wed October 31, 2012

Before Sandy Hit U.S., Storm Was A Killer In Haiti

Hurricane Sandy's tear across the Caribbean left at least 54 dead in Haiti, where many people still live in tents because of damage from the 2010 earthquake.
Thony Belizaire AFP/Getty Images

Hurricane Sandy only sideswiped Haiti during its early days. But reports so far suggest that even this indirect hit led to nearly as many deaths there as in the U.S. after the storm made landfall on the Mid-Atlantic coast.

As of Wednesday, Haiti had documented 54 deaths caused by Sandy — most in the nation's southern peninsula, which points toward Jamaica. Another 21 Haitians were still counted as missing, and many fear the death toll will rise as officials reach affected areas isolated by impassable roads and ruined bridges.

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Shots - Health News
4:12 pm
Fri October 26, 2012

FDA Says Massachusetts Pharmacy Knew Of Sterility Problems For Months

A Framingham police officer keeps watch as federal agents search the New England Compounding Center company in Framingham, Mass., on October 16.
Dominick Reuter Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Fri October 26, 2012 4:40 pm

In a highly unusual step, the Food and Drug Administration has released a report of inspections it conduct this month of the Massachusetts pharmacy at the center of a national outbreak of fungal infections.

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Shots - Health News
3:58 am
Wed October 24, 2012

Meningitis From Tainted Drugs Puts Patients, Doctors In Quandary

Matthew Spencer receives intravenous infusions of a potent antifungal drug at home twice a day for an indefinite period to treat a suspected case of fungal infection linked to a contaminated steroid drug that came from New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 9:58 am

Two weeks after Matthew Spencer got a spinal injection for his chronic back pain, he felt "not quite right." Nothing too specific: worsening headache, nausea.

Then he saw a TV report on a recall of contaminated steroid medication used for back pain.

"I thought, well, I don't know if I had that medicine or not, but maybe I'd better go check it out," Spencer says.

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Shots - Health News
6:03 am
Sat October 20, 2012

CDC: Meningitis Mold In Tainted Drug Can Incubate For Months

Federal agents investigate the offices of the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., on Tuesday. The company's steroid medication has been linked to a deadly meningitis outbreak.
Barry Chin AP

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 11:38 am

As the caseload of fungal meningitis linked to a tainted steroid drug climbs, experts are learning more about this human-made epidemic. The signs indicate that cases could still be emerging until Thanksgiving or beyond.

The latest count is 268 cases of meningitis and three patients with fungal joint infections, spread across 16 states from New Hampshire to Texas and Idaho to Florida. Twenty-one people have died.

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Shots - Health News
11:23 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Old Drug Gets A Second Look For TB Fight

Under the microscope, Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. The germs that cause TB have become resistant to many drugs.
Janice Haney Carr CDC

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 12:04 pm

A small study offers a bit of cautious optimism about the prospects for treatment of tuberculosis, one of humankind's most ancient scourges.

This week's New England Journal of Medicine has a report showing that adding a 12-year-old antibiotic called linezolid, brand name Zyvox, to existing treatments cured nearly 90 percent of patients with a form of tuberculosis resistant to both first- and second-line antibiotics.

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Shots - Health Blog
7:33 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Meningitis Outbreak Puts Doctors, Regulators In New Territory

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 4:13 pm

There's new information on the ongoing outbreak of a rare meningitis caused by a fungus that somehow got into a steroid drug. Federal officials now say the drug got injected into 14,000 patients — 1,000 more than earlier thought.

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Shots - Health Blog
5:33 pm
Fri October 5, 2012

Meningitis Outbreak Update: List Of Hospitals Released

The government has named 75 medical facilities that received a potentially contaminated drug suspected of infecting 47 patients with meningitis nationwide.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:27 pm
Fri October 5, 2012

Arabian Coronavirus: Plot Thickens But Virus Lies Low

Different types of coronaviruses can cause a simple cold or a deadly respiratory illness, such as SARS.
BSIP UIG via Getty Images

It now appears that the new coronavirus found on the Arabian Peninsula is more widespread than initially thought, even though only two people are known to have gotten sick from it.

At first it seemed likely that the two known cases of illness from the new cousin-of-SARS virus may have been exposed in or near the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast.

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Shots - Health Blog
6:51 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

Rare Fungal Meningitis Outbreak Spreads To Six States

The fungus Aspergillus niger shows up as a black mold on decaying vegetation and food.
Dr. Lucille K. Georg CDC

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 8:33 am

It's a troubling story authorities think will unfold over the next month or so. An untold number of Americans who got steroid injections in their spine to relieve back pain may end up with a rare fungal meningitis. The drug was contaminated with the spores of a common leaf mold — nobody knows how.

So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded 35 cases of the fungal meningitis in six states: Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Maryland and Indiana. Five patients have died.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:32 am
Wed October 3, 2012

When New Diseases Emerge, Experts Are Faster On The Uptake

A railway worker wearing protective clothing to ward off the SARS virus controls a line of travelers as they wait to enter Beijing's West Railway Station Tuesday in 2003.
Greg Baker AP

Originally published on Wed October 3, 2012 11:37 am

Scientists have recently discovered three new human viruses.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:35 pm
Tue October 2, 2012

Vitamin D No Help For Colds

Sorry the vitamin D didn't help.
Michael Kemter iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 8:53 am

Should you take Vitamin D supplements to prevent colds and shorten the misery?

Like other theories about the benefits of vitamin D, it seems like a reasonably good idea. After all, some lab studies suggest vitamin D might enhance immunity. And as everybody knows, people are more prone to respiratory infections during winter, when they cover up and get less vitamin D-generating sunlight.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:56 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Disease Detectives Catch Deadly African Virus Just As It Emerges

New viruses are popping up all over these days – Heartland virus in Missouri last month, a new virus in the same family as SARS in Saudi Arabia this month. And now, a never-before-seen hemorrhagic fever virus in central Africa.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:43 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Mini-Counseling Sessions Can Curb Problem Drinking

Just 10 to 15 minutes of counseling from primary care doctors can reduce the risk of "risky" drinking, a federal task force says.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 9:10 pm

Brief counseling from primary care doctors reduces "risky" drinking, defined as having more than four drinks a day for men, three for women, a federal task force says.

About one in three Americans misuse alcohol, the panel says, with the vast majority falling in the "risky" category.

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Shots - Health Blog
5:00 pm
Mon September 24, 2012

Scientists Parse Genes Of Breast Cancer's Four Major Types

Scientists say a new report in the journal Nature provides a big leap in the understanding of how different types of breast cancer differ.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed November 28, 2012 9:46 am

Scientists have known for a while that breast cancer is really four different diseases, with subtypes among them, an insight that has helped improve treatment for some women.

But experts haven't understood much about how these four types differ. A new report, published online in the journal Nature, provides a big leap in that understanding.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:36 am
Fri September 21, 2012

Swedes Perform Pioneering Uterine Transplants; Americans Not Far Behind

A surgical team with Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, performs the first mother-to-daughter uterine transplant.
Johan Wingborg University of Gothenburg

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 8:39 am

A Swedish medical team has transplanted uteruses from two women in their 50s to their daughters. Meanwhile, Shots has learned that an Indiana group is recruiting women willing to undergo womb transplants in this country.

"We could go ahead tomorrow if we found the perfect candidate," Dr. Giuseppe Del Priore told Shots.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:12 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

Tiny Bubbles: Injectable Oxygen Foam Tested For Emergency Care

Bubbles of oxygen injected as a foam might someday help patients live long enough to get treatment for oxygen deprivation.
iStockphoto.com

A lot of medicine's direst emergencies come down to one problem: lack of oxygen.

Cardiologist John Kheir started thinking about that when a little girl in his care, drowning from lung hemorrhages, died before she could be hooked up to a heart-lung machine that would have kept her blood oxygenated while the damage was repaired.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:04 am
Wed September 19, 2012

Ebola's Other Victims: Health Care Workers

A medical worker from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention works at the laboratory where Ebola specimens from the Congo were tested at the start of the latest outbreak.
Stephen Wandera AP

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 7:51 am

The Ebola virus continues to strike people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since May, the World Health Organization has counted 72 confirmed, probable or suspected cases and 32 deaths.

As usual, a disproportionate share of those cases are health care workers — 23 of them, almost a third.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:30 pm
Wed September 12, 2012

Worst Of West Nile Epidemic Appears To Be Over

Technicians with the Contra Costa County Mosquito and Vector Control District spray insecticide in Brentwood, Calif., last month. Workers fogged areas of the county that had an increase in the numbers of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

The numbers for West Nile virus cases continue to rise, up 35 percent in the last week. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is confident the nation has turned the corner on its worst-ever epidemic of West Nile virus disease.

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Shots - Health Blog
9:24 am
Tue September 11, 2012

Two Mutations Can Transform A Swine Flu Virus

A hog gets a closeup at the Illinois State Fair in August. Officials took special precautions to make sure no livestock sick with a new strain of swine were part of the fair.
Seth Perlman AP

Flu pandemics don't happen very often. So many people might feel the relative fizzle of a flu pandemic three years ago somehow immunizes the globe against another one for awhile.

But don't relax, say the authors of a report published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:27 am
Mon September 10, 2012

Doctors Take Aim At Epidemic Kidney Stones With Lasers

Henry Owens, a 69-year-old retired lawyer from Cape Cod, suffered a kidney stone attack last month. His doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital used a laser to break up the stone.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 4:17 am

The nation is in the midst of a kidney stone epidemic.

New research shows 1 in 10 American men and 1 in 14 women has had one. And prevalence of kidney stones has shot up in recent years.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:23 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

Zanzibar Shows Cholera Vaccine Can Protect Even The Unvaccinated

A vaccine against cholera bacteria like these protected people in Zanzibar.
CDC

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 1:09 pm

Cholera vaccine gives indirect protection to unvaccinated people in communities where a substantial fraction of the population gets the vaccine, a study in Africa shows.

The effect is called "herd immunity." It works because there are fewer bacteria circulating in communities where vaccination levels are relatively high.

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Shots - Health Blog
7:46 am
Fri August 31, 2012

Tax Breaks For Organ Donors Aren't Boosting Transplant Supply

A kidney donor is wheeled to an operating room for a transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in late June.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Seventeen states offer tax incentives to people who donate a kidney, a portion of their liver or bone marrow for transplantation. But a study finds these sweeteners aren't working.

Researchers looked at what happened in the years before and after these tax incentives were passed and found no increase in organ donation rates.

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Shots - Health Blog
5:24 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Mysterious New 'Heartland Virus' Discovered In Missouri

Two men from northwestern Missouri became ill after tick bites infected them with a previously unknown virus.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 8:42 am

Two Missouri farmers have been infected with a brand-new tick-borne virus that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling the Heartland virus.

The men recovered but suffered serious illness that required hospital care and weeks of convalescence. Symptoms included fever, severe fatigue, headache and nausea. Their platelet counts plummeted, but even though platelets are necessary for blood clotting, the men didn't suffer abnormal bleeding.

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