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.

Vitamins seem like such a good thing that drugstores have whole aisles devoted to them, including products that promise a healthy prostate.

Back in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, doctors prescribed a hormone called diethylstilbestrol, or DES, to millions of pregnant women in the unfounded belief it would prevent miscarriages.

Smack in the middle of this period, the deformed thalidomide babies demonstrated the terrible things that can happen when drugs are casually prescribed during pregnancy.

You think your job is tough? Some scientists examined sewage from Pittsburgh, Barcelona and Addis Ababa in a hunt for unknown viruses.

They found scads. How many? At least 43,381.

To put that number into perspective, consider that up to now scientists have charted only about 3,000 viruses. And among the known viruses found in the sewage samples, only 17 were bugs that cause human disease — things like the common cold virus, diarrhea-causing Norwalk virus and human papilloma virus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer and genital warts.

Working with grasshoppers, fruit flies, mice and human cells, the three scientists who won this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine opened important windows on how all these creatures defend themselves against microbial invaders and refrain from attacking their own cells – except when they don't.

It's intricate and complicated stuff, but the two main concepts you need to know are: innate immunity and adaptive immunity.

Drug shortages mean a growing number of Americans aren't getting the medications they need. That's causing drug companies and doctors to ration available medications in some cases.

"We're now at 213 shortages for this year," says Erin Fox of the University of Utah, who tracks national drug shortages. "That surpasses last year's total of 211. And it doesn't seem like there's an end in sight."

Up to now doctors couldn't tell a man much about his chances of maintaining sexual function after surgery or radiation for prostate cancer.

"We'd say about half recovered or maintained their function," says Dr. Martin Sanda of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "And we'd be able to turn that up or down a little bit based on age."

The first vaccine against human papillomavirus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer, came out five years ago. But now it's become a hot political topic, thanks to a Republican presidential debate in which candidate Michelle Bachmann inveighed against "innocent little 12-year-old girls" being "forced to have a government injection."

Behind the political fireworks is a quieter backlash against a public health strategy that's won powerful advocates in the medical and public health community.

They're calling it Million Hearts – a newly launched campaign to put a half-dozen simple and proven public health strategies into wider practice. Federal health officials say it can prevent a million heart attacks and strokes between now and 2016.

Federal officials call it "the next big step" in cardiovascular prevention. There's lots of evidence it's an achievable goal.

Part of our series on the closure of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Army Maj. Jittawadee Murphy peers into a paper bucket full of freshly hatched Anopheles stephanii mosquitoes. She needs to separate out the females — the only ones that bite — so they can be infected with malaria.

It turns out that sexing mosquitoes is easy.

Autism specialists have long thought the disease has a strong genetic component -– maybe stronger than any other neurodevelopmental disorder.

The Boston hospital that gave Charla Nash a new face in May has released the first post-surgery photo of the transplant's results.

Nash's face was mauled by an out-of-control chimpanzee in 2009. Before the transplant, she wore a veil to conceal the grotesquely misshapen face that was the best plastic surgeons could do.

Soy pills for the hot flashes and bone loss menopausal women may endure seemed like a great idea – a cheap way of getting the benefit of estrogen without the risks.

But alas, a new study concludes they don't work.

Woman who took a daily soy pill had no less bone loss after two years than others who took a sugar pill. (Women in both groups didn't know which pill they got.)

The United Nations says that sometime around Halloween the seven-billionth person will be born into this world — most likely in India, which is on track to overtake China as the most populous nation in just 16 years.

This latest milestone may not come as a surprise. But it is remarkable nonetheless. It took Earth 50,000 years to reach the one billion mark. By 1960 there were three billion souls. Since then we've added another billion every decade, or less.