Michaeleen Doucleff | KUOW News and Information

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.

Over the past 70 years, the U.S. has been waging a war against a miniature menace: the New World screwworm.

The story of how we eradicated the critter has it all: triumph of the little guys, a medical treatment that uses bacon (i.e., "bacon therapy") and a new technology to wipe out horrible diseases — one that scientists are using today to try to stop the Zika virus.

The screwworm is arguably the most cringeworthy creature on Earth. Seriously, if you're squeamish at all, you might want to skip the next few paragraphs.

By now we know that Zika is dangerous for pregnant women and their future babies. The virus can cause devastating birth defects.

But what about for infections after babies are born? Or in older children? Is Zika a danger for them?

So far, all the evidence suggests probably not. But there are a few caveats.

Let's start with what we know.

For months, scientists in Colombia have been working on a massive study.

They've been tracking the health of thousands of pregnant women to try to figure out key questions surrounding the Zika virus.

Now the team has published its first major findings, and they offer a glimmer of good news.

A few months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a startling map that showed the parts of the U.S. that could harbor mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika.

Many readers, including myself, thought, "Zika could come to my town! It could come to Connecticut! To Ohio and Indiana! Or to Northern California! Oh goodness!"

The map made it look like a vast swath of the country was at risk for Zika, including New England and the Upper Midwest.

Well, not quite.

Maybe it's a dive trip to Belize. Or a cruise in the Caribbean. Or maybe you've snagged tickets to the summer Olympics in Rio. If you're traveling in places where Zika is circulating, there are a few things you need to keep in mind — and bring along.

The first question is: Should you go on the trip at all?

There's a heated battle going on about the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Nearly 200 scientists signed a letter to the World Health Organization last week, calling for the games to be moved because of the ongoing epidemic of Zika in Brazil.

But many health officials — including those at WHO — say having the games in Rio doesn't pose a big enough threat to warrant moving them.

So who's right?

The last time, we heard about a "mysterious hemorrhagic fever" in a country, it was February 2014. The outbreak was in Guinea. And by the time doctors had pinpointed the culprit, Ebola was spiraling out of control in West Africa.

The situation in South Sudan today is a far cry from that in West Africa a few years ago. But it's still concerning, the World Health Organization said.

The world is not ready for the next big pandemic. That's what health officials have been saying for years. If a deadly flu strain spreads around the globe, we could be in trouble.

This week the health leaders are trying to change that. They're gathering in Geneva for the World Health Organization's annual meeting, the 69th World Health Assembly. At the top of the agenda: reshaping WHO into an agency that can take action during a health emergency instead of just giving out advice.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

This week, the director of the World Health Organization gave a stern warning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Six years of your life. Or 2,190 days. That's about how long the average woman will spend having her periods.

For some women, that's too many days, too many periods.

More women in their 20s and 30s are choosing contraception that may suppress their menstrual cycles, says Dr. Elizabeth Micks, who runs an OB-GYN clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle. "In general, I think views are changing really rapidly," Micks says. "That need to have regular periods is not just in our society anymore."

It's official. Zika has come to Florida.

Four people caught the virus in a small neighborhood north of downtown Miami, Governor Rick Scott said Friday. That means mosquitoes in the neighborhood became infected with Zika and spread it.

A few weeks ago, Dr. James Bale saw a series of MRI images in a medical journal of MRI scans of babies infected with Zika in the womb.

They scans showed something Bale had seen only a few times in his 30-year career: a phenomenon called fetal brain disruption sequence.

As the fetus's brain starts to grow, it creates pressure, which pushes on the skull and causes it to grow. But if something stops brain growth — such as a virus — pressure on the skull drops. And the skull can collapse down onto the brain.

In the past 12 years, the U.S. has spent more than $1.4 billion funding abstinence programs in Africa. They're part of a larger program — called the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — aimed at stopping the spread of HIV around the world.

Many health officials consider PEPFAR a success. It is credited with giving lifesaving HIV drugs to more than 5 million people and preventing nearly 1 million babies from getting HIV from their mothers.

Just when health officials think the Ebola outbreak is over in West Africa, the virus pops up again seemingly out of the blue. It's happened at least five times so far.

Now scientists are starting to figure out why: The virus can lie dormant in a survivor for more than year and then re-emerge to infect others.

Having HIV — or getting treatment for it — speeds up the aging process by about five years, on average, scientists report in a new study.

The findings, published in the journal Molecular Cell, fit with what doctors have seen in clinics: HIV-positive people tend to get hit earlier in life with age-related diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and dementia.

Zika's arrival in the U.S. this summer seems almost inevitable, health officials keep saying.

The virus has already touched down in northern Mexico and Puerto Rico. And just this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of states with virus-carrying mosquitoes was larger than previously thought.

So the looming question is: Once Zika is here, how big will the outbreak be?

Hear it in Rio, Kathmandu or Timbuktu — it doesn't matter. A hearty, belly laugh means the same thing on every continent: joy.

But when we laugh with someone else, our chuckles may divulge more than we realize.

Scientists have found that people around the world can tell whether folks are friends or strangers by listening to them laughing together. And the ability transcends culture and language.

Last November, a couple from Washington, D.C., took a weeklong vacation. They visited Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. And got bitten by plenty of mosquitoes.

Two days after they returned home, the woman — who was pregnant — fell ill. She had muscle pain, a fever and a rash.

"At first she didn't think much about it," says OB-GYN Rita Driggers, who saw the woman at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "But then all the news started coming out about Zika, so the woman went and got tested."

Copyright 2018 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.

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