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
7:27 am
Fri April 26, 2013

Failure Of Latest HIV Vaccine Test: A 'Huge Disappointment'

The green dots are HIV virus particles on a human white blood cell.
CDC

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 8:14 am

The largest current study of an AIDS vaccine, involving 2,500 people, is being stopped.

After an oversight committee took a preliminary peek at the results this past Monday, they concluded there was no way the study would show that the vaccine prevents HIV infection.

Nor would the vaccine suppress the wily virus among people who get infected despite being vaccinated.

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Shots - Health News
12:38 am
Fri April 19, 2013

With Bird Flu, 'Right Now, Anything Is Possible'

A health worker collects pigeons from a trap at People's Square in Shanghai, China, earlier this month. So far, workers have tested more than 48,000 animals for the H7N9 flu virus.
ChinaFotoPress Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 19, 2013 4:27 pm

An international dream team of flu experts assembled in China today.

Underscoring the urgency that public health agencies feel about the emergence of a new kind of bird flu, the team is headed by Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization's top influenza scientist.

Before he left Geneva, Fukuda explained the wide-open nature of the investigation in an interview with NPR.

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Explosions At Boston Marathon
3:23 am
Tue April 16, 2013

Boston Doctors Compare Marathon Bomb Injuries To War Wounds

Medical personnel work outside the medical tent in the aftermath of two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. At area hospitals, doctors say they were confronted with the kinds of injuries U.S. troops get in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Elise Amendola AP

Originally published on Wed April 17, 2013 6:26 am

Boston hospitals always staff up their emergency rooms on Marathon Day to care for runners with cramps, dehydration and the occasional heart attack.

But Monday, those hospitals suddenly found themselves with more than 100 traumatized patients — many of them with the kinds of injuries seen more often on a battlefield than a marathon.

Like most big-city hospitals these days, Tufts Medical Center runs regular disaster drills, featuring simulated patients smeared with fake blood.

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Shots - Health News
11:57 pm
Sat April 13, 2013

Scientists Race To Stay Ahead Of New Bird Flu Virus

Workers prepare an H7N9 virus detection kit at the Center for Disease Control in Beijing on April 3.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 4:01 am

A precious package arrived at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last Thursday afternoon.

Inside, packed in dry ice to keep it frozen, was a vial containing millions of viruses derived from a 35-year-old Chinese housewife who died last Tuesday of respiratory and kidney failure.

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Shots - Health News
10:15 am
Wed April 10, 2013

Feds Fault Preemie Researchers For Ethical Lapses

How much oxygen should severely premature infants receive? A study that sought to answer the question has been criticized for not fully informing parents about the risks to their children.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 4:04 am

Federal officials say a large study of premature infants was ethically flawed because doctors didn't inform the babies' parents about increased risks of blindness, brain damage and death.

The study involved more than 1,300 severely premature infants at nearly two dozen medical institutions between 2004 and 2009. The infants were randomly assigned to receive two different levels of oxygen to see which was better at preventing blindness without increasing the risk of neurologic damage or death.

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Shots - Health News
1:04 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Human Cases Of Bird Flu In China Draw Scrutiny

A cockerel walks on a bridge in a residential area of Beijing. The Chinese are beginning to destroy thousands of birds in an effort to stamp out the presumed source of H7N9 infection.
Wang Zhao AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 8, 2013 1:09 pm

Sixteen cases of a new flu around Shanghai have touched off a major effort to determine what kind of threat this new bug might be.

The victims range in age from 4 to 87 years old. Six have died. It is a tragedy for them and their families, but is it a global crisis?

To understand why so few cases are generating so much concern, the first thing to know is that no flu virus like this one — called H7N9 — has ever been known to infect humans before.

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Shots - Health News
10:21 pm
Sun March 31, 2013

As Stroke Risk Rises Among Younger Adults, So Does Early Death

When Melissa McCann (left) suffered a stroke in 2007, her twin sister, Terry Blanchard, helped her make a full recovery. McCann is now back to work as a flight nurse with Life Flight at the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
David Wright/Redux Pictures for NPR

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 3:50 am

Most people (including a lot of doctors) think of a stroke as something that happens to old people. But the rate is increasing among those in their 50s, 40s and even younger.

In one recent 10-year period, the rate of strokes in Americans younger than 55 went up 84 percent among whites and 54 percent among blacks. One in 5 strokes now occurs in adults 20 to 55 years old — up from 1 in 8 in the mid-1990s.

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Shots - Health News
8:41 am
Wed March 27, 2013

Catalog Of Gene Markers For Some Cancers Doubles In Size

A microscopic image of prostate cancer. Researchers have found new genetic markers that flag a person's susceptibility to the disease, as well as breast and ovarian cancer.
Otis Brawley National Cancer Institute

The largest gene-probing study ever done has fished out dozens of new genetic markers that flag a person's susceptibility to breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.

The 74 newly discovered genetic variants double the previously known number for these malignancies, all of which are driven by sex hormones.

Underscoring the sheer magnitude of the findings, they're contained in 15 scientific papers published simultaneously by five different journals. The Nature group of journals has collected them all here.

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Shots - Health News
7:39 am
Tue March 19, 2013

Sorting Out The Mammogram Debate: Who Should Get Screened When?

A woman gets a mammogram in Putanges, France.
Mychele Daniau AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 11:21 am

Mammography outcomes from nearly a million U.S. women suggest which ones under 50 would stand the greatest chance of benefiting from regular screening: those with very dense breasts.

That's been a bone of contention ever since a federal task force declared nearly four years ago that women younger than 50 shouldn't routinely get the test.

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Shots - Health News
10:22 pm
Sun March 17, 2013

To Control Asthma, Start With The Home Instead Of The Child

Maria Texeira-Gomes holds a photo of her 5-year-old son, Matheo, who has struggled with asthma nearly all his life.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Tue March 19, 2013 5:36 am

Nothing sends more kids to the hospital than asthma.

So when doctors at Children's Hospital in Boston noticed they kept seeing an unusually high number of asthmatic kids from certain low-income neighborhoods, they wondered if they could do something about the environment these kids were living in.

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Shots - Health News
7:57 am
Fri March 15, 2013

More Patients Keep HIV At Bay Without Antiviral Drugs

An electron micrograph of HIV particles infecting a human T cell. French researchers say they've found 14 patients with so little HIV virus in their blood that the patients have gone into "long-term remission."
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 4:00 am

Just last week AIDS researchers were excited about a Mississippi toddler whose blood has remained free of HIV many months after she stopped getting antiviral drugs – what doctors call a "functional cure."

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Shots - Health News
7:04 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Cardiac Arrest Survivors Have Better Outlook Than Doctors Think

Students at the College of Central Florida in Ocala, Fla., perform CPR on a mock patient.
Bruce Ackerman Ocala Star-Banner /Landov

Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 4:48 am

Every day something like 550 hospitalized Americans suffer cardiac arrest. That's bad news. Only about one in five will live to leave the hospital.

But for the lucky 44,000 a year who are resuscitated and survive, the outlook is much better than expected, authors of a new study say.

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Shots - Health News
1:24 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

Why Relatives Should Be Allowed To Watch CPR On Loved Ones

A recent study finds that relatives present during resuscitation attempts suffer fewer psychological effects later.
istockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 1:32 pm

Picture this: Your spouse or child has collapsed and isn't breathing. You call 911, and the paramedics rush in and take charge. But you are banished to another room while the medical people try to bring your loved one back to life.

It's about the most stressful scene imaginable. And it's what usually happens.

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Shots - Health News
11:34 pm
Sun March 10, 2013

Aspirin Vs. Melanoma: Study Suggests Headache Pill Prevents Deadly Skin Cancer

A doctor checks for signs of skin cancer at a free cancer screening day in New York City.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 5:22 am

It's not the first study that finds the lowly aspirin may protect against the deadliest kind of skin cancer, but it is one of the largest.

And it adds to a mounting pile of studies suggesting that cheap, common aspirin lowers the risk of many cancers — of the colon, breast, esophagus, stomach, prostate, bladder and ovary.

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Shots - Health News
5:15 am
Fri March 8, 2013

A Man's Journey From Nepal To Texas Triggers Global TB Scramble

Although tuberculosis is declining around the world, drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis are on the rise.
NIAID/Flickr.com

Originally published on Fri March 8, 2013 7:47 am

We don't know too much about a Nepalese man who's in medical isolation in Texas while being treated for extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR-TB, the most difficult-to-treat kind. Health authorities are keen to protect his privacy.

But we do know that he traveled through 13 countries — from South Asia to somewhere in the Persian Gulf to Latin America — before he entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico in late November. He traveled by plane, bus, boat, car and on foot.

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Shots - Health News
11:41 am
Sun March 3, 2013

Scientists Report First Cure Of HIV In A Child, Say It's A Game-Changer

HIV particles, yellow, infect an immune cell, blue.
NIAID_Flickr

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 11:35 am

Scientists believe a little girl born with HIV has been cured of the infection.

She's the first child and only the second person in the world known to have been cured since the virus touched off a global pandemic nearly 32 years ago.

Doctors aren't releasing the child's name, but we know she was born in Mississippi and is now 2 1/2 years old — and healthy. Scientists presented details of the case Sunday at a scientific conference in Atlanta.

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Shots - Health News
12:06 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Strategy To Prevent HIV In Newborns Sparks Enthusiasm And Skepticism

By taking antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy, this Tanzanian mother lowered the risk of passing HIV to her daughter.
Siegfried Modola AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 2:52 pm

There's great enthusiasm among some global health leaders about a bold – some say radical — strategy to prevent pregnant women from transmitting HIV to their newborns.

But skeptics worry that the approach, dubbed Option B+, will pit pregnant women with HIV against others infected with the virus, diverting resources from the broader struggle against the pandemic.

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Shots - Health News
10:35 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Younger Women Have Rising Rate Of Advanced Breast Cancer, Study Says

Blend Images/Jon Feingersh Getty Images/iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 3:19 am

Researchers say more young American women are being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.

It's a newly recognized trend. The numbers are small, but it's been going on for a generation. And the trend has accelerated in recent years.

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Shots - Health News
4:23 am
Thu February 21, 2013

Medical Waste: 90 More Don'ts For Your Doctor

Scans shouldn't be ordered routinely for kids with minor head injuries, new advice to doctors says.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 11:54 am

Doctors do stuff — tests, procedures, drug regimens and operations. It's what they're trained to do, what they're paid to do and often what they fear not doing.

So it's pretty significant that a broad array of medical specialty groups is issuing an expanding list of don'ts for physicians.

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Shots - Health News
10:34 pm
Sun February 17, 2013

Targeted Cancer Drugs Keep Myeloma Patients Up And Running

Don Wright runs at an indoor track at the Maplewood Community Center in North Saint Paul, Minn.
Ariana Lindquist for NPR

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 10:13 am

Don Wright got diagnosed with multiple myeloma at what turned out to be the right time. It was 10 years ago, when he was 62.

That was at the beginning of a revolution in treating this once-fearsome blood cell cancer, which strikes around 20,000 Americans every year. The malignancy can literally eat holes in victims' bones, which can snap from the simple act of bending over to pick up a package.

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Shots - Health News
1:51 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Report: Action Needed To Wipe Out Fake And Substandard Drugs

Shoppers buy smuggled counterfeit drugs at the Adjame market in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in 2007.
Issouf Sanogo AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 12:20 pm

A blue-ribbon panel is urging stronger regulation of pharmaceuticals around the world to combat the growing problem of fake and poor-quality medicines.

The quality problems and fake medicines have affected Americans. Fungal contamination of steroids made by a Massachusetts pharmacy, which sickened more than 700 people and killed 46, is one recent example. Other U.S. patients have received fake cancer drugs and medicines obtained over the Internet with little or no active ingredients.

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Shots - Health News
1:13 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

World's Most Popular Painkiller Raises Heart Attack Risk

The painkiller diclofenac is sold under several brand names in the U.S. and abroad, including Voltaren.
Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 4:35 am

The painkiller diclofenac isn't very popular in the U.S., but it's by far the most widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, in the world.

A slew of studies, though, show diclofenac — sold under the brand names Voltaren, Cambia, Cataflam and Zipsor — is just as likely to cause a heart attack as the discredited painkiller Vioxx (rofecoxib), which was pulled from the U.S. market in 2004.

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Shots - Health News
11:44 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Widely Used Stroke Treatment Doesn't Help Patients

An angiogram of a 48-year- old patient after treatment for a stroke. A blockage was targeted with clot-busting drugs using a catheter.
Zephyr Science Source

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 12:09 pm

It's another case of a beautiful idea colliding with some ugly facts.

The beautiful idea is the notion that clearing the blocked artery of a stroke patient with a device snaked right up to the blockage would salvage threatened brain cells and prevent a lot of disability.

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Shots - Health News
5:37 am
Mon February 4, 2013

Experimental Tuberculosis Vaccine Fails To Protect Infants

Nurse Christel Petersen inoculates a child in the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative study in 2011.
Rodger Bosch AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 4, 2013 1:03 pm

Researchers are disappointed in the results of a long-awaited study of the leading candidate vaccine against tuberculosis, one of humankind's most elusive scourges.

But, pointing to more than a dozen other TB vaccines in the pipeline, they say they're not discouraged.

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Shots - Health News
10:40 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

Female Smokers Face Greater Risk Than Previously Thought

Women smoke in New York City's Times Square.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 24, 2013 8:19 am

There's still more to learn about the risks of smoking and the benefits of quitting.

Studies in this week's New England Journal of Medicine show that the risk for women has been under-appreciated for decades. New data also quantify the surprising payoffs of smoking cessation — especially under the age of 40.

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Shots - Health News
6:55 am
Wed January 23, 2013

Old Drug Extends Life For Pancreatic Cancer Patients

A CT scan showing an adenocarcinoma of the pancreatic head.
Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 10:55 am

A large study is providing a rare glimmer of hope for patients with pancreatic cancer, perhaps the deadliest of all malignancies.

By the time they're diagnosed, most patients with pancreatic cancer have advanced disease that's spread to the liver and lung. And the primary tumor may be inoperable because it's wrapped around vital blood vessels and nerves.

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Shots - Health News
10:51 am
Fri January 18, 2013

A Worm's Ovary Cells Become A Flu Vaccine Machine

The fall armyworm, a corn pest, is now also a vaccine factory.
Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 4:57 am

As the flu season grinds on from news cycle to news cycle, there's some flu news of a different sort. Federal regulators have approved a next-generation type of flu vaccine for the second time in two months.

The two new vaccines are the first fruits of a big government push to hasten and simplify the laborious production of flu vaccines.

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Shots - Health News
10:48 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Bad Flu Season Overshadows Other Winter Miseries

People line up at a Duane Reade pharmacy in New York behind a sign announcing the recent flu outbreak.
Andrew Kelly Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 6:11 am

Dr. Beth Zeeman says she can spot a case of influenza from 20 paces. It's not like a common cold.

"People think they've had the flu when they've had colds," Zeeman, an emergency room specialist at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, Mass., tells Shots. "People use the word 'flu' for everything. But having influenza is really a different thing. It hits you like a ton of bricks."

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Shots - Health News
10:18 pm
Sun January 13, 2013

As Hepatitis C Sneaks Up On Baby Boomers, Treatment Options Grow

Hepatitis C patient Nancy Turner shows Kathleen Coleman, a nurse practitioner, where a forearm rash, a side effect of her treatment, has healed. Turner is one of many patients with hepatitis C experimenting with new drugs to beat back the virus.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 10:27 am

A smoldering epidemic already affects an estimated 4 million Americans, most of whom don't know it.

It's hepatitis C, an insidious virus that can hide in the body for two or three decades without causing symptoms — and then wreak havoc with the liver, scarring it so extensively that it can fail. Half of all people waiting for liver transplants have hepatitis C.

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Shots - Health News
12:34 am
Sat January 12, 2013

After Bringing Cholera To Haiti, U.N. Plans To Get Rid Of It

Haitians protest against the United Nations peacekeepers in Port-au-Prince in November 2010.
Hector Retamal AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat January 12, 2013 6:11 pm

Not quite 10 months after Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake, a more insidious disaster struck: cholera.

Haiti hadn't seen cholera for at least a century. Then suddenly, the first cases appeared in the central highlands near a camp for United Nations peacekeeping forces.

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