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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3:27am

Mon September 10, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Doctors Take Aim At Epidemic Kidney Stones With Lasers

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 5:17 am

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

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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1:23pm

Tue September 4, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Zanzibar Shows Cholera Vaccine Can Protect Even The Unvaccinated

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 2:09 pm

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

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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8:46am

Fri August 31, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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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6:24pm

Wed August 29, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Mysterious New 'Heartland Virus' Discovered In Missouri

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 9:42 am

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

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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3:00pm

Wed August 29, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

With West Nile On The Rise, We Answer Your Questions

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 9:45 am

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

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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10:18am

Wed August 29, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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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9:42am

Tue August 21, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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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4:14pm

Fri August 17, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

WHO Calls For Emergency Stockpile Of Cholera Vaccine

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 5:11 pm

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

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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2:49pm

Fri July 27, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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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4:16am

Thu July 26, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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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6:19pm

Tue July 24, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 7:01 pm

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

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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11:51am

Tue July 24, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Needle Exchanges Often Overlooked In AIDS Fight

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 4:13 pm

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

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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3:25pm

Mon July 23, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

San Francisco Thwarts HIV With Wide Testing, Universal Treatment

Originally published on Mon July 23, 2012 5:19 pm

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

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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5:02pm

Wed July 18, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 7:30 pm

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

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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2:17pm

Tue July 17, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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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3:05am

Tue July 17, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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

Originally published on Sat July 28, 2012 11:05 am

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

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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3:06am

Thu July 12, 2012
AIDS: A Turning Point

'Treatment As Prevention' Rises As Cry In HIV Fight

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 12:21 pm

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

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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6:04pm

Tue July 3, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

New Home Test For HIV May Cut Down New Infections

Originally published on Thu July 5, 2012 10:38 am

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

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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4:04pm

Tue July 3, 2012
Health

Treating HIV: From Impossible To Halfway There

Originally published on Fri July 6, 2012 2:20 pm

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

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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4:39pm

Fri June 22, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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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5:29pm

Mon June 18, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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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4:41am

Wed June 13, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Traces Of Virus In Man Cured Of HIV Trigger Scientific Debate

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 9:35 am

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

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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5:04pm

Wed June 6, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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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11:57am

Thu May 31, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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

Originally published on Thu May 31, 2012 2:27 pm

iStockphoto.com

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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7:29pm

Tue May 29, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Counterfeiters Exploit Shortage To Market Fake Adderall Pills

Originally published on Wed May 30, 2012 8:48 am

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

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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3:22pm

Mon May 28, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

With PSA Testing, The Power Of Anecdote Often Trumps Statistics

Originally published on Tue May 29, 2012 9:46 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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6:01pm

Tue May 22, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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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8:21pm

Mon May 21, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 2:33 pm

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

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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6:22pm

Mon May 21, 2012
Medical Treatments

Task Force: Men Don't Need Regular Prostate Tests

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 7:00 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.

12:33am

Mon May 21, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 8:21 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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