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
10:24 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
1:23 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 2:09 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
8:46 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
6:24 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 9:42 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
3:00 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 9:45 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
10:18 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
9:42 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
4:14 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 5:11 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
2:49 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
7:50 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

Two More Nearing AIDS 'Cure' After Bone Marrow Transplants, Doctors Say

Timothy Ray Brown, shown in May 2011 with his dog Jack in San Francisco, is the only man ever known to have been fully cured from AIDS. Brown is known as the "Berlin patient" because he had a bone marrow transplant in a German hospital five years ago.
Eric Risberg AP

Originally published on Fri July 27, 2012 1:28 pm

The so-called Berlin patient is famously the only person in the world who has been cured of HIV. But he may soon have company.

Two people in Boston also seem to be free of HIV after undergoing bone marrow transplants for cancer, just as the Berlin patient did five years ago. The crucial difference is that the Boston patients have not yet stopped taking anti-HIV drugs — although that may happen in the coming months.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:16 am
Thu July 26, 2012

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

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 10:35 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
6:19 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 7:01 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
11:51 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 4:13 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
3:52 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 5:19 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
5:02 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 7:30 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
2:17 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
3:05 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 11:05 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
3:06 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 12:21 pm

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
6:04 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 10:38 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
4:04 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 2:20 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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