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.

Pages

Shots - Health News
1:41 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

On Eve Of U.N. Goal-Setting, AIDS Agency Claims Big Progress

A doctor takes an HIV test from an athlete during the 18th National Sports Festival in Lagos, Nigeria, last December.
Sunday Alamba AP

Despite a plateau in funding by international donors, the United Nations AIDS agency reports striking progress in curbing new HIV infections and deaths from AIDS.

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Shots - Health News
9:16 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Even As MERS Epidemic Grows, The Source Eludes Scientists

Camel jockeys compete at a festival on the outskirts of Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh, a focal point for the Middle East respiratory syndrome virus.
Fayez Nureldine AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 10:17 am

A year after doctors first identified an illness that came to be known as Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome researchers are reporting fresh genetic information about the virus that causes it.

The findings don't bring scientists any closer to understanding where MERS is coming from. In fact, the main news is that researchers were wrong about the source of some infections in the largest cluster of cases so far.

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Shots - Health News
12:39 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Healthful Living May Lengthen Telomeres And Lifespans

Originally published on Tue September 17, 2013 3:22 pm

Scientists claim they have evidence that explains why lifestyle changes known to be good for you — low-fat diets, exercise, reducing stress — can lengthen your life.

Based on a small, exploratory study, researchers say these good habits work by preventing chromosomes in our cells from unraveling. Basically, they assert that healthy living can reverse the effects of aging at a genetic level.

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Shots - Health News
8:02 am
Sun September 15, 2013

Deadly Amoeba Found For First Time In Municipal Water Supply

Kali Hardig, 12, was released from a hospital in Little Rock, Ark., on Sept. 11 after surviving a brain infection caused by amoebas.
Danny Johnston Associated Press

Originally published on Mon September 16, 2013 10:32 am

A 4-year-old child who died of a rare brain infection in early August has led Louisiana health officials to discover that the cause is lurking in the water pipes of St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans.

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Shots - Health News
8:52 am
Wed September 11, 2013

Fast Tests For Drug Resistance Bolster Malaria Fight

A Cambodian boy gets tested for malaria at a clinic along the Thai-Cambodian border in 2010. Three strains of drug-resistant malaria have emerged from this region over the past 50 years.
Paula Bronstein Getty Images

Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 11:15 am

Malaria researchers have developed what they consider a crucial advance: Simple and fast tests that can tell when parasites have become resistant to the front-line drug against malaria.

Taken together, these tests give humans a new tool to counter the malaria parasite's ability to outwit every drug that's ever been devised against it.

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Shots - Health News
3:03 am
Sun September 1, 2013

The Case For Clearing More Arteries During Heart Attacks

There's been great progress in treating heart disease, but it remains the top killer in the U.S.
iStockphoto.com

An aggressive approach to preventing heart attacks could be the next big thing in the long battle against this leading cause of death.

A British study presented Sunday in Amsterdam finds that doctors can reduce future heart attacks and cardiac deaths by opening up multiple clogged coronary arteries while they're fixing the artery that's causing a heart attack in progress.

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Shots - Health News
5:05 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

Illicit Drugs And Mental Illness Take A Huge Global Toll

A homeless man smokes crack in the Barrio Triste neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia.
Raul Arboleda AFP/Getty Images

Mental disorders and substance abuse are the leading causes of nonfatal illness on the planet, according to an ambitious analysis of data from around the world.

A companion report, the first of its kind, documents the global impact of four illicit drugs: heroin and other opiates, amphetamines, cocaine and cannabis. It calls illegal drugs "an important contributor to the global burden of disease."

The two papers are being published by The Lancet as part of a continuing project called the Global Burden of Disease.

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Shots - Health News
6:03 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Vaccinating Babies For Rotavirus Protects The Whole Family

An artistic illustration of the rotavirus.
petersimoncik iStockPhoto.com

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 4:40 pm

A 7-year-old vaccine that has drastically cut intestinal infections in infants is benefiting the rest of America, too.

A study published Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that vaccinating infants against rotavirus has also caused a striking decline in serious infections among older children and adults who didn't get vaccinated.

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Shots - Health News
12:46 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

More Stroke Patients Now Get Clot-Busting Drug

A brain scan followed by quick drug treatment in the right patients can stop a stroke in its tracks.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 12:14 pm

It's been a long and often controversial road, but U.S. doctors are finally embracing a drug that can halt strokes and prevent disabling brain damage.

An analysis of more than 1 million stroke patients shows that use of the 17-year-old drug, called alteplase (brand-name Activase), nearly doubled between 2003 and 2011.

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Shots - Health News
11:18 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Another Study Of Preemies Blasted Over Ethical Concerns

What should parents be told before their premature infants participate in a clinical study?
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 12:09 pm

For the second time in four months, the consumer group Public Citizen is alleging that a large, federally funded study of premature infants is ethically flawed.

Both complaints raise a big issue that's certain to get more attention beyond these particular studies: What's the ethically right way to do research on the validity of the usual care that doctors provide every day.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will host an unusual forum on that question next Wednesday — stimulated by the sharp questions raised by Public Citizen.

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Shots - Health News
2:03 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

Ebola Treatment Works In Monkeys, Even After Symptoms Appear

The Ebola virus forms threadlike structures under the microscope.
Cynthia Goldsmith CDC

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 8:58 pm

Ebola, your days as one of the world's scariest diseases may be numbered.

A team of U.S. government researchers has shown that deadly Ebola hemorrhagic fever can be vanquished in monkeys by an experimental drug given up to five days after infection — even when symptoms have already developed.

An antibody cocktail aimed at Ebola's outer surface rescued three of seven macaques infected with lethal doses of the hemorrhagic virus in the U.S. Army's high-security labs at Fort Detrick, Md.

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Shots - Health News
5:27 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Lyme Disease Far More Common Than Previously Known

Black-legged ticks like this can transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
CDC

Originally published on Mon August 19, 2013 6:58 pm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 300,000 Americans are getting Lyme disease every year, and the toll is growing.

"It confirms what we've thought for a long time: This is a large problem," Dr. Paul Mead tells Shots. "The bottom line is that by defining how big the problem is we make it easier for everyone to figure out what kind of resources we have to use to address it."

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Shots - Health News
5:27 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Evidence Supports Pill To Prevent Some Prostate Cancers

The active ingredient in Propecia, a baldness remedy approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997, is showing new promise as a way to prevent some prostate cancers.
AP

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 8:40 am

Researchers say a cheap, generic pill called finasteride prevents almost 40 percent of low-grade prostate cancers without increasing the risk of dying from more aggressive tumors.

New evidence points to the drug as a potentially safer way to deal with prostate cancers that now get more intense treatment. Many prostate cancers that aren't destined to cause men serious health problems are often treated with surgery or radiation.

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Shots - Health News
3:34 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Nurse Charged With Assisting In Her Father's Death

Barbara Mancini with her father, Joe Yourshaw.
Barbara Mancini via Compassion & Choices

Originally published on Wed July 31, 2013 6:22 pm

A Philadelphia nurse has been charged with assisted suicide for allegedly providing her 93-year-old father with a lethal dose of morphine.

Authorities say Barbara Mancini, 57, told a hospice nurse and a police officer on Feb. 7 that she provided a vial of morphine to her father, Joe Yourshaw, to hasten his death.

Mancini and her attorneys acknowledge she handed the medication to her father, but maintain she never said she intended to help him end his life and was only trying to help her father ease his pain — an act they say is legally protected, even if it causes death.

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Shots - Health News
6:09 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Panel Urges Lung Cancer Screening For Millions Of Americans

Some images of lung cancer are clear cut. But in many others, a nodule on the screen turns out not to be cancer at all.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 2:24 pm

A federal task force is planning to recommend that millions of smokers and former smokers get a CT scan annually to look for early signs of lung cancer.

The 16-member US Preventive Services Task Force gives that lung cancer screening test a grade of B, which puts it on the same level as mammography for women between the ages of 50 and 74.

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Shots - Health News
2:58 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

HPV Vaccination Might Help Reduce Risk Of Throat Cancers

Vaccines against the HPV virus are already used to prevent cervical and anal cancer.
Harry Cabluck AP

Originally published on Tue July 23, 2013 4:29 pm

A study of women in Costa Rica is raising hope that getting vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, could lower the risk of throat cancers.

The research doesn't show that. It would take a much bigger and longer study to do that – if such a study could ethically be done at all.

What this study does show is that among the nearly 6,000 women in the study, those who got vaccinated against two strains of the virus had 93 percent fewer HPV throat infections four years later.

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Shots - Health News
5:11 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

For A Long And Healthy Life, It Matters Where You Live

It's not just living longer that matters. It's living healthier longer.
iStockphoto.com

It's not just how long you live that matters. It's healthy life expectancy – the additional years of good health you can expect once you hit 65.

And by that measure, a new analysis shows it makes a lot of difference where Americans live.

Hawaiians are lucky in more than their idyllic weather and gorgeous scenery. Seniors there can expect a little more than 16 years of healthy life after 65. Women in Hawaii can expect more than 17 years.

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Shots - Health News
3:17 am
Thu July 18, 2013

Tuberculosis Outbreak Shakes Wisconsin City

Dale Hippensteel, manages the Sheboygan County health department.
Jeffrey Phelps For NPR

Originally published on Thu July 18, 2013 7:45 am

Looking crisp and official in his khaki-colored sheriff's department polo shirt, Steve Steinhardt says Sheboygan, Wis., is a pretty good place to be a director of emergency services.

"Nothing bad happens here," he says, knocking on wood. Unless, that is, you count the tuberculosis outbreak that struck the orderly Midwestern city of 50,000 this spring and summer.

"I never expected TB to be one of the bigger emergencies I'd face when I got into this field," Steinhardt says.

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Shots - Health News
9:04 am
Thu June 20, 2013

Outbreak In Saudi Arabia Echoes SARS Epidemic 10 Years Ago

Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf on Sunday. In eastern Saudi Arabia, where outbreaks of the MERS virus have been concentrated, people have resumed their habits of shaking hands and kissing.
Fayez Nureldine AFP/Getty Images

A detailed analysis of how the disease called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome spread through four Saudi Arabian hospitals this spring reveals disturbing similarities to the SARS pandemic that terrified the world a decade ago.

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Shots - Health News
3:10 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Vaccine Against HPV Has Cut Infections In Teenage Girls

A 13-year-old girl gets an HPV vaccination from Judith Schaechter, a pediatrician at the University of Miami, in 2011.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 10:18 pm

A vaccine against human papillomavirus — the most common sexually transmitted infection and the cause of almost all cervical cancer — is dramatically reducing the prevalence of HPV in teenage girls.

The first vaccine against HPV, Merck's Gardasil, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006. Cerverix, from GlaxoSmithKline, was approved in 2009.

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Shots - Health News
12:53 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Prevention Pill Cuts HIV Risk For Injecting Drug Users

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says doctors should prescribe Truvada, a once-a-day pill for HIV, to help prevent infections in IV drug users.
Jeff Chiu AP

A once-a-day pill has been proven to lower the risk of getting HIV among needle-using drug addicts, just as it does among heterosexual couples and men who have sex with men.

Among 2,400 injecting drug users in Bangkok, those assigned to take a daily dose of an antiviral drug Viread, or tenofovir generically, had half the risk of getting HIV over a four-year period as those who took a placebo pill. Among those who took tenofovir faithfully, there were 74 percent fewer infections.

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Shots - Health News
4:31 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 8:11 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
8:59 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 8:26 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
2:19 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 5:15 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
3:34 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 9:10 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
2:11 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

Originally published on Fri May 31, 2013 2:15 pm

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
3:52 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
2:06 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
2:49 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 11:43 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
3:03 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 4:19 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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