Michaeleen Doucleff

Michaeleen Doucleff is a reporter for NPR's Science Desk. She reports for the radio and the Web for NPR's global health and development blog, Goats and Soda. Doucleff focuses on disease outbreaks, drug development, and trends in global health.

In 2014, Doucleff was part of the team that earned a George Foster Peabody award for its coverage of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. For the series, Doucleff reported on how the epidemic ravaged maternal health and how the virus spreads through the air. In 2015, Doucleff and Senior Producer Jane Greenhalgh reported on the extreme prejudices faced by young women in Nepal when they're menstruating. Their story was the second most popular one on the NPR website in 2015 and contributed to the NPR series on 15-year-old girls around the world, which won two Gracie Awards.

As a science journalist, Doucleff has reported on a broad range of topics, from vaccination fears and the microbiome to beer biophysics and dog psychology.

Before coming to NPR in 2012, Doucleff was an editor at the journal Cell, where she wrote about the science behind pop culture. Doucleff has a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Berkeley, California, and a master's degree in viticulture and enology from the University of California, Davis.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

There's now evidence that the Zika virus was spreading through South America long before health officials detected it last year. The finding suggests Zika could be hiding out in other corners of the world. NPR's Michaeleen Doucleff reports.

The Zika virus was likely spreading in South America — silently — long before health officials detected it, scientists reported Thursday.

The findings, published in the journal Science, suggest an air traveler brought the virus to the Americas sometime between May and December of 2013, or more than a year before Brazil reported the first cases of Zika in early 2015.

This is a story about two people sharing one body. Maybe even three people. Or four.

Back in the late 19th century, a German scientist named Georg Schmorl made a remarkable discovery: Cells from a baby can hide out in a mother's body, after birth.

Kamala B.K. is tiny. She's barely 5 feet tall. A bright red ribbon sets off her dark hair.

As she walks past our guesthouse in the village of Thankot, we try to get her to come over and talk to us. But the 14-year-old won't come over to the porch.

"Because she's menstruating, she should not be entering another person's house. It's disrespectful," says Cecile Shrestha of Wateraid.

A sexual harassment case is sending shock waves through the scientific community this week, and raising questions nationwide about how common sexual harassment is in science and why so little is typically done to stop it.

A six-month investigation by the University of California, Berkeley concluded in June that a faculty member, renowned astronomer Geoffrey Marcy, violated multiple sexual harassment policies over the course of a decade.

For the past 10 years, doctors have used a genetic test to decide which patients may be able to skip chemotherapy after surgery for breast cancer.

Now a study confirms that this test, called Oncotype DX, works well for a small group of patients. But a longer, follow-up study is needed to draw conclusions for a fuller range of patients with riskier tumors.

Oncotype DX analyzes 21 genes in the tumor to estimate a woman's risk of the cancer coming back after surgery.

He's been at it for 45 years. Wake up before 2 a.m. Turn on the fryer. And have the glazed doughnuts and peanut-topped coffeecakes ready by 6 a.m.

Yup, Michael Doucleff Sr. is a baker and small-business owner in Alton, Ill.

At at age 70, he doesn't show many signs of slowing down. He's still working more than 40 hours a week, still carrying 50-pound bags of flour upstairs from the basement.

It's called the Heartland virus disease. Since it was first detected in 2009, there have been only nine reported cases in the Midwest, including two deaths.

So scientists thought the Heartland virus was limited to a small region.

That assumption was wrong.

A team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now found signs that Heartland virus is circulating in deer, raccoons, coyotes and moose in 13 states — from Texas to North Carolina and Florida to Maine.

At first glance, the metallic device almost looks like a high-tech bike pedal. Or maybe the latest cooking gadget for zesting lemons. Or, perhaps, it's a secret weapon for X-Men superhero Wolverine.

But look again.

The treatment is called Fav-Afrique. It's the only anti-venom approved to neutralize the bites of 10 deadly African snakes, like spitting cobras, carpet vipers and black mambas. And the world's stockpiles of it are dwindling, Doctors Without Borders said Tuesday. The last batch expires next June.

These are the tiniest babies born. Some weigh only a pound or two. And can fit in the palm of your hand.

Extreme preemies — born somewhere between 22 and 28 weeks — have a better chance of surviving now than they did 20 years ago, doctors report Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. But many of these babies still have severe health problems.

More adults across the country are strapping on helmets and hopping on bikes to get to work. That's good news for people's hearts and waistlines, but it also means more visits to the emergency room.

Hospital admissions because of bike injuries more than doubled between 1998 and 2013, doctors reported Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. And the rise was the biggest with bikers ages 45 and over.

The Ebola epidemic has entered a new phase. And it's a good one.

For the first time since the virus hit Sierra Leone, the country hasn't had a single new case in a week, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

And over in Guinea and Liberia, the situation is also looking up. This week Guinea reported only three new cases, while Liberia hasn't had a case in more than a month.

Doctors Without Borders is calling it a "champagne moment." The World Health Organization says it's a "game changer."

In a small trial, an experimental vaccine protected 100 percent of participants who were at high risk for the virus. Although the results are preliminary, they offer new hope of finally stamping out the virus in West Africa — and preventing the next epidemic.

Only six people in the world know how to do what Sergio Pacheco is about to do.

A middle-aged man who rarely smiles, Pacheco stands in the middle of a crowd on the National Mall, wearing a feathered headdress, beaded necklace and wrinkled dress that's been hand painted with a large, maroon bird on the front.

"What I'm about to show you is the way we heal in my community," Pacheco says in his native language, Harakmbut, while a translator quickly interprets. "If someone has faith, they will be cured."

It's about the size of an "energy shot." You take it just like a shot of whiskey — bottoms up.

But this little ounce-and-a-half of liquid is more potent than caffeine or alcohol.

It's a cheap, oral vaccine against cholera. It could prevent deadly outbreaks, like the current one in Haiti that has killed nearly 10,000 people.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Almost two months after Liberia was declared Ebola-free, the disease has cropped up again — this time in a rural town outside the capital city.

So far, there's only one new case, but health officials are rushing to stop its spread.

Liberia's deputy health minister, Tolbert Nyenswah, said Tuesday that a 17-year-old boy died of Ebola at his home in Nedowein, a village near the country's international airport.

Compared to other cultures around the world, Americans are big stoners.

About 40 percent of Americans say they've tried marijuana at some point in their lifetimes, a large survey found. That rate was the highest reported across 17 countries, and it's nearly 10 times higher than the global average.

But when it comes to reefer madness, nobody can top the Aka — a group of traditional hunter-gatherers in the Congo Basin.

Editor's note, June 10: We have added an acknowledgement of several sources that Esther Gokhale used while developing her theories on back pain. These include physiotherapy methods, such as the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method, and the work of anthropologist Noelle Perez-Christiaens.

An outbreak of a deadly virus in South Korea has set off alarms across the region.

In the past week, South Korea's confirmed cases of the Middle East respiratory syndrome have more than tripled to 41, with at least three deaths. About 1,600 people are quarantined and more than 1,000 schools are closed.

It's the largest outbreak of MERS outside Saudi Arabia. And researchers around the world have been trying to figure out why the outbreak in South Korea has gotten so large, so fast.

Now researchers have a clue: a superspreader event.

Making morphine — or heroin*, for that matter — isn't easy. You have to know a bunch of fancy chemistry to synthesize the drug from scratch. Or you have to get your hands on some opium poppies and extract morphine from the flowers' milky juice.

The latter is tougher than it sounds. Sure, the beautiful flowers grow across millions of acres around the world. But farming and trading poppies are tightly regulated both by laws and by drug kingpins.

Eighteen years ago, Dean Karlan was a fresh, bright-eyed graduate student in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He wanted to answer what seemed like a simple question:

"Does global aid work?" Karlan says.

He was reading a bunch of studies on the topic. But none of them actually answered the question. "We were tearing our hair out reading these papers because it was frustrating," he says. "[We] never really felt like the papers were really satisfactory."

Here at the Goats and Soda blog, we talk a lot about tiny critters moving around the globe — and often causing trouble.

Last summer it was Ebola hopping on a plane to Texas. Then a painful virus from eastern Africa, called chikungunya, found its way to Florida via the Philippines and the Caribbean.

But it's not just viruses and microbes that take advantage of Boeing 747s, vacationers and international development.

The first genetically modified crop wasn't made by a megacorporation. Or a college scientist trying to design a more durable tomato. Nope. Nature did it — at least 8,000 years ago.

Well, actually bacteria in the soil were the engineers. And the microbe's handiwork is present in sweet potatoes all around the world today.

It took 15 years and hundreds of millions of vaccines. But North America and South America have officially eradicated rubella, health authorities said Wednesday. Rubella is only the third virus eradicated from people in the Western Hemisphere.

Also known as German measles, rubella causes only a mild illness in children, with a rash and sometimes a fever.

Looks like many of us don't have the right stomach for a paleodiet. Literally.

Two studies give us a glimpse into our ancestors' microbiome — you know, those trillions of bacteria that live in the human gut.

And the take-home message of the studies is clear: Western diets and modern-day hygiene have wiped a few dozen species right out of our digestive tracts. One missing microbe helps metabolize carbohydrates. Other bygone bacteria act as prebiotics. And another communicates with our immune system.

It began with anxiety and depression. A few months later, hallucinations appeared.

Then the Texas man, in his 40s, couldn't feel the left side of his face.

He thought the symptoms were because of a recent car accident. But the psychiatric problems got worse. And some doctors thought the man might have bipolar disorder.

Eventually, he couldn't walk or speak. He was hospitalized. And about 18 months after symptoms began, the man died.

Right after birth, trillions of microbes rush into a baby's gut and start to grow. Most of these critters come from the mom's skin, birth canal and gut.

But exactly which types of bacteria take up residence in an infant's gut can depend on the mother's DNA, scientists reported Thursday.

The study, published in the journal Microbiome, focuses on a microbe called Bifidobacterium that potentially benefits babies.

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