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 Blog
11:23 am
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 12:09 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
6:46 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
4:24 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 7:42 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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Shots - Health Blog
1:00 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

With West Nile On The Rise, We Answer Your Questions

A Beechcraft airplane sprays insecticide over Dallas early Monday morning to curb the spread of West Nile virus.
LM Otero AP

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 7:45 am

This year is on track to be the worst ever for West Nile virus in the United States. Here are the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • 1,590 reported cases, nearly 500 more than a week ago for a rise of 44 percent.
  • 889 cases, or 56 percent, involve severe neurological disease.
  • 66 deaths, compared to 41 last week.
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Shots - Health Blog
8:18 am
Wed August 29, 2012

When Flu Hits, Kids With Neurological Problems Are Vulnerable

People wait in line at the Durham County Health Department for the H1N1 flu vaccination in Durham, N.C., in November 2009.
Gerry Broome AP

Flu is most deadly for children with neurologic problems and disorders, an analysis of swine flu fatalities finds.

The results come from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers who looked at childhood fatalities during the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009, when there were five times the usual number of deaths.

In all, 43 percent of the deaths occurred in children who had neurologic diseases, such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy, or developmental disorders.

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Shots - Health Blog
7:42 am
Tue August 21, 2012

Oldest Americans Living Longer, And Are Fitter And Richer, Too

The latest data paint a brighter picture of aging in America.
Lisa F. Young iStockphoto.com

America's oldest citizens are generally getting healthier, living longer and doing better financially. But there's lots of room for improvement.

That's the take-home from an exhaustive picture of Americans over 65 put together by the federal government and released last week during the summer doldrums.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:14 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

WHO Calls For Emergency Stockpile Of Cholera Vaccine

Thousands of doses of cholera vaccine sit in a refrigerated trailer in a United Nations compound in Saint-Marc, Haiti, in March. After some delays, a vaccination project proved successful.
John Poole NPR

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 3:11 pm

A month ago the results of a successful cholera vaccine project in Haiti became available. Now the World Health Organization is calling for the establishment of a global stockpile of the vaccine to respond to outbreaks like Haiti's.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:49 pm
Fri July 27, 2012

The Value Of HIV Treatment In Couples

Dr. Lisa Sterman holds Truvada pills at her office in San Francisco. The drug was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent infection in people at high risk of infection with HIV. The pill, already used to treat people with HIV, also helps reduce the odds they will spread the virus.
Jeff Chiu AP

Dr. Rochelle Walensky thinks the 19th International AIDS Conference will be remembered as the moment when the world began to mobilize to end the pandemic.

The Harvard researcher probably speaks for many of the 23,000 scientists, activists and policy mavens who came to the Washington conference. But they're going home with a big question on their minds: Can the world afford it?

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Shots - Health Blog
2:16 am
Thu July 26, 2012

Treating Everybody With HIV Is The Goal, But Who Will Pay?

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 8:35 am

The big question hanging over the International AIDS Conference this week is whether all 34 million people in the world with HIV can possibly get antiviral drug treatment.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:14 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Black Teens Are Getting The Message On HIV, But Risks Are Still There

Condom use has dropped among black youth, even as teens engage in less risky sexual behavior overall.
Mike Segar Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 5:01 pm

The HIV epidemic among African-Americans is getting deserved new attention at the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. And the news isn't all bad.

New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that black high school students are engaging in risky sexual behavior far less often than they were 20 years ago.

Since black teens are the future of the epidemic for the hardest-hit ethnic group, this is encouraging.

Here are the main results:

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Shots - Health Blog
9:51 am
Tue July 24, 2012

Needle Exchanges Often Overlooked In AIDS Fight

A heroin user keeps a syringe tucked behind his ear at a park in the city of Medan on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Cordita-Caritas Medan, a nongovernmental organization active there, works to reduce HIV infections through rehab of drug users and a needle exchange program.
Sutanta Aditya AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 2:13 pm

There's a lot of buzz at the 19th International AIDS Conference about powerful new strategies to prevent HIV infection.

But a potent old strategy isn't used enough around the world, many researchers say, and is even neglected entirely in places where it's most urgently needed.

It's called needle exchange.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:44 pm
Mon July 23, 2012

San Francisco Thwarts HIV With Wide Testing, Universal Treatment

HIV patient Darnell Hollie, 47, talks to her doctor Monica Gandhi (right) at San Francisco General Hospital. Her path from drug addict to model patient was "a lot of work, but if you want it, it's there for you," Hollie says.
Richard Knox/NPR

Originally published on Mon July 23, 2012 3:19 pm

If you show up at the emergency department at San Francisco General Hospital — for any reason — there's a good chance they'll offer you an HIV test.

It's part of a big push, in a city closely associated with the AIDS pandemic, to find nearly all people infected with the virus and get them in treatment right away.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:29 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

HIV Cure Is Closer As Patient's Full Recovery Inspires New Research

Nurse Priscila-Grace Gonzaga with Gregg Cassin, a San Francisco gay man who has been infected with HIV since the early 1980s. He's a volunteer in a cutting-edge gene therapy experiment to see whether HIV-infected people can be given an immune system that is invulnerable to HIV infection.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 5:30 pm

Ask AIDS researchers why they think a cure to the disease is possible and the first response is "the Berlin patient."

That patient is a wiry, 46-year-old American from Seattle named Timothy Ray Brown. He got a bone marrow transplant five years ago when he was living in Berlin.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:17 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

Cholera Vaccination Test Reached Targets In Haiti

A lone pig roots through trash dumped over the side of a sewage canal that runs from the center of Port au Prince through Cite de Dieu. During the rainy season, the canal overflows its banks and fills nearby houses with sewage, which can carry cholera.
John W. Poole NPR

The results are in on this spring's high-visibility pilot project to vaccinate 100,000 Haitians against cholera.

Almost 90 percent of the target population – half in Port-au-Prince and the other half in a remote rural area – got fully protected against cholera, meaning they got 2 doses of the oral vaccine.

The results defy the forecasts of skeptics who said in advance of the campaign that it would be lucky to protect 60 percent of the target populations.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:05 am
Tue July 17, 2012

Deciding On Truvada: Who Should Take New HIV Prevention Pill?

Kevin Kirk (left) and James Callahan have been together for more than five years. Recently they sat down and talked about whether Kevin, who is HIV-negative, might want to start taking Truvada.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Sat July 28, 2012 9:05 am

There's something new to prevent HIV infections.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved a once-a-day pill that can drastically lower a person's risk of getting the virus that causes AIDS.

It's called Truvada — the first HIV prevention pill.

It's not cheap — around $13,000 a year — and it's not clear what insurers will pay for it. And there's worry that people taking the pill might relax safe-sex precautions.

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AIDS: A Turning Point
1:06 am
Thu July 12, 2012

'Treatment As Prevention' Rises As Cry In HIV Fight

While Kenya Jackson (right) is on his thrice-weekly dialysis treatment, community health worker Greg Jules talks to him about taking his medication.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 10:21 am

AIDS researchers, policymakers and advocates are increasingly convinced that treating HIV is one of the best ways of preventing its spread.

The rallying cry is "treatment as prevention," and it's the overarching theme of this month's International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:15 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

New Home Test For HIV May Cut Down New Infections

The Food and Drug Administration just approved the OraQuick test, which detects the presence of HIV in saliva collected using a mouth swab.
Chuck Zovko AP

Originally published on Thu July 5, 2012 8:38 am

No infectious disease has ever been detectable by a test that consumers can buy over the counter and get quick results at home. But HIV isn't just any infection. It's a stubborn pandemic virus that's still making people sick and killing them 31 years after it first appeared – even though infection is easily prevented and effectively treated.

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Health
2:04 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Treating HIV: From Impossible To Halfway There

Francois St. Ker, 55, was on the brink of dying from AIDS in the spring of 2001. Today, he's a successful farmer and is in good health, thanks to treatment for his HIV.
John Poole NPR

Originally published on Fri July 6, 2012 12:20 pm

This story begins 11 years ago. It was a time when many, if not most, experts said it was unthinkable to treat people with AIDS in developing countries using the triple-drug regimens that were routinely saving the lives of patients in wealthier countries.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:39 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

Drug-Resistant Germ In Rhode Island Hospital Raises Worries

Pretty to look at, almost, but Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria these are a common cause of infections in hospitals.
CDC

A highly resistant form of a common bacterium recently popped up in two Rhode Island patients, only the 12th and 13th times it has been spotted in this country.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:29 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Scientists Find New Wrinkle In How Cholera Got To Haiti

A Haitian protester in Port-au-Prince last year spray-paints a wall, equating the UN mission in Haiti (abbreviated here as MINISTA) with cholera.
Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images

Most researchers currently believe that United Nations peacekeeping soldiers introduced cholera to Haiti in October of 2010.

After all, Haiti hadn't recorded cholera for as long as a century, Nepal had experienced a cholera epidemic in the months preceding the soldiers' arrival, and the Haitian and Nepalese cholera strains were found to be nearly identical.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:41 am
Wed June 13, 2012

Traces Of Virus In Man Cured Of HIV Trigger Scientific Debate

Timothy Ray Brown, widely known in research circles as the Berlin patient, was cured of his HIV infection by bone marrow transplants. Now scientists are trying to make sense of the traces of HIV they've found in some cells of his body.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 7:35 am

Top AIDS scientists are scratching their heads about new data from the most famous HIV patient in the world — at least to people in the AIDS community.

Timothy Ray Brown, known as the Berlin patient, is thought to be the first patient ever to be cured of HIV infection.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:04 pm
Wed June 6, 2012

Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis A 'Serious Epidemic' In China

Gao Weiwei, a doctor of the Beijing Chest Hospital which specializes in the treatment of tuberculosis, talks to a patient suspected to have tuberculosis at the hospital in Tongzhou, near Beijing, March 27, 2009.
Ng Han Guan AP

China's first national survey of tuberculosis has produced some of the worst TB news in years.

Out of the million Chinese who develop TB every year, researchers say at least 110,000 get a form that's resistant to the mainstay drugs isoniazid and rifampin. Patients with such multidrug-resistant or MDR tuberculosis have to be treated for up to two years with expensive second-line drugs that are toxic and less effective.

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Shots - Health Blog
9:57 am
Thu May 31, 2012

Sick in America: Hispanics Grapple With Cost And Quality Of Care

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu May 31, 2012 12:27 pm

In our recent poll on what it means to be sick in America, one ethnic group stands out as having special problems – Hispanic Americans.

The national survey, conducted by NPR with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, sheds new light on Hispanics' health issues. It runs counter to the widespread impression that African-Americans are worst-off when it comes to the cost and quality of health care.

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Shots - Health Blog
5:29 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Counterfeiters Exploit Shortage To Market Fake Adderall Pills

If the label of ingredients on the Adderall pack says "singel entity," that's a tip-off for trouble.
FDA/Flickr

Originally published on Wed May 30, 2012 6:48 am

A shortage of Adderall began last year, sending millions of people with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy on perpetual wild goose chases to find drugstores with the pills they need to stay alert and focused.

So it's not surprising that Adderall counterfeiters have seized a big marketing opportunity. What is surprising is their clumsiness.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:22 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

With PSA Testing, The Power Of Anecdote Often Trumps Statistics

Originally published on Tue May 29, 2012 7:46 am

Millions of men and their doctors are trying to understand a federal task force's recommendation against routine use of a prostate cancer test called the PSA.

The guidance, which came out last week, raises basic questions about how to interpret medical evidence. And what role expert panels should play in how doctors practice.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:01 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Easier Colon Cancer Test Works Well, But Colonoscopy's Still King

A big study of a colon cancer test called flexible sigmoidoscopy may provide a good example of how a cheaper, easier-on-the-patient and possibly better technology isn't always the one American doctors choose to use.

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Shots - Health Blog
6:28 pm
Mon May 21, 2012

All Routine PSA Tests For Prostate Cancer Should End, Task Force Says

Terry Dyroff, at home in Silver Spring, Md., got a PSA blood test that led to a prostate biopsy. The biopsy found no cancer, but it gave him a life-threatening infection.
Jose Luis Magana AP

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 12:33 pm

There they go again — those 17 federally appointed experts at the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are telling American doctors and patients to stop routinely doing lifesaving tests.

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Medical Treatments
4:46 pm
Mon May 21, 2012

Task Force: Men Don't Need Regular Prostate Tests

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 5:00 pm

A federal task force has concluded that men over 50 don't need a regular blood test for prostate cancer. Millions of men get the test every year. The task force says too many unnecessary treatments are being performed because of the test.

Shots - Health Blog
10:33 pm
Sun May 20, 2012

Poll: What It's Like To Be Sick In America

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 6:21 pm

In the lull between the Supreme Court arguments over the federal health overhaul law and the decision expected in June, we thought we'd ask Americans who actually use the health system quite a bit how they view the quality of care and its cost.

Most surveys don't break it down this way.

When the results came back, we found that people who have a serious medical condition or who've been in the hospital in the past year tended to have more concerns about costs and quality than people who aren't sick. No big surprise there.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:10 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

U.S. Funding Of HIV/AIDS Fight Overseas Carries Other Benefits

A mother and child wait to receive treatment at the HIV clinic in Nyagasambu, Rwanda, in Feb. 2008. The clinic was built by the Washington-based Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation with a grant from the PEPFAR program.
Shashank Bengali MCT/Landov

U.S. government spending to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries is also preventing death from other diseases, a new study finds.

Some experts worry the billions of dollars the United States spends to treat people with HIV in poor countries may crowd out prevention and treatment of other illnesses.

Read more

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