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.

Maybe the short answer is: We need a better imagination?

The global health world hasn't set its goals high enough, hasn't dreamed big enough when it comes to stopping tuberculosis, says Dr. Paul Farmer, physician at Harvard Medical School and founder of the nonprofit Partners In Health.

"We've had a failure of imagination," he says. "We haven't had the same optimism, commitment and high ambitious goals around TB that we've seen around HIV. And what's the downside of setting high goals? I think it's very limited."

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This week, in New York City for the first time, the United Nations General Assembly is hosting a high-level meeting on tuberculosis, or TB.

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About a hundred years ago, something devious started happening in our homes and offices, in our cars and at restaurants — and our backs have never been the same.

For hundreds — even thousands — of years, chairs were made of wood. Maybe the seat was covered with cord or cattail leaves, and if you were rich, you could afford some padded upholstery, which began to take off in the 17th and 18th centuries.

When you go through airport security, you might wish you had a pair of gloves on like the TSA agents do.

Researchers have evidence that the plastic trays in security lines are a haven for respiratory viruses. The trays likely harbor more of these pathogens than the flushing button on the airport toilets, researchers reported last week in BMC Infectious Diseases.

Eww.

My back hurts when I sit down.

It's been going on for 10 years. It really doesn't matter where I am — at work, at a restaurant, even on our couch at home. My lower back screams, "Stop sitting!"

To try to reduce the pain, I bought a kneeling chair at work. Then I got a standing desk. Then I went back to a regular chair because standing became painful.

I've seen physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons and pain specialists. I've mastered Pilates, increased flexibility and strengthened muscles. At one point, my abs were so strong my husband nicknamed them "the plate."

The world now has a potent, new weapon against malaria — one that can wipe out the parasite from a person's body with a single dose.

But before many people around the world can use it, scientists have to overcome a big obstacle.

After a woman gives birth to her baby, labor is not over. She also has to birth the placenta, and this can be quite risky.

The placenta attaches to the uterus through a series of blood vessels, which reach from the mom into the placenta. After childbirth, the placenta tears off the uterus, leaving these vessels open and exposed.

Six months ago, Melissa Nichols brought her baby girl, Arlo, home from the hospital. And she immediately had a secret.

"I just felt guilty and like I didn't want to tell anyone," says Nichols, who lives in San Francisco. "It feels like you're a bad mom. The mom guilt starts early, I guess."

Across town, first-time mom Candyce Hubbell has the same secret — and she hides it from her pediatrician. "I don't really want to be lectured," she says. "I know what her stance will be on it."

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

A hundred years ago, the world was struck by a nightmare scenario.

World War I was still raging. And then a suspicious disease appeared.

Scratch another Guinea worm hot spot off the list.

One of the countries hardest hit with the parasite — South Sudan — has finally stopped transmission, the Carter Center announced Wednesday.

The country reported zero cases in 2017 and hasn't had a case in 15 months. There are also no signs Guinea worm is circulating in dogs in South Sudan, as it is in Chad and Mali.

If you want to cut your risk of catching the flu on your next flight, pick a window seat and stay put.

That's a key take-home message of a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To see if you're bending correctly, try a simple experiment.

"Stand up and put your hands on your waist," says Jean Couch, who has been helping people get out of back pain for 25 years at her studio in Palo Alto, Calif.

"Now imagine I've dropped a feather in front of your feet and asked to pick it up," Couch says. "Usually everybody immediately moves their heads and looks down."

Earlier this week, we shared the remarkable story of Abby Beckley — and her run-in with eye worms.

When this young woman felt something crawling around in her eyes, she had the presence to remove said worm and then, over the course of a few weeks, not one, not two nor three ... but 14 nematodes came out from her eye.

At first doctors didn't believe her. Then they saw one squiggle across her eyeball.

On Christmas Day last year, a 68-year-old woman in southern China came down with the flu. A week later she was hospitalized.

The woman eventually recovered, but she spent three weeks in the hospital.

The culprit? H7N4, a new type of bird flu.

"This is the first case of human infection with avian influenza A (H7N4) in the world," the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection said Wednesday in a statement.

Oh my lordy! This story gets creepier and crazier the more you learn about it.

Back in the summer of 2016, Abby Beckley had been living on an inactive cattle ranch in southern Oregon. "There was just one cow," says the 28-year-old college student.

A few weeks later, she started to have the sensation that something was in her eye. "You know how it feels when you have an eyelash in your eye?" Beckley says. "That's exactly how it felt, but when I looked in the mirror, I couldn't see anything."

There's a glaring hole in President Trump's budget proposal for 2019, global health researchers say. A U.S. program to help other countries beef up their ability to detect pathogens around the world will lose a significant portion of its funding.

The ambitious program, called Global Health Security Agenda, was launched in early 2014, aiming to set up an early-warning system for infectious diseases across the world.

If the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov were alive today, what would he say about smartphones? He might not think of them as phones at all, but instead as remarkable tools for understanding how technology can manipulate our brains.

Last summer, Zac Peterson was on the adventure of a lifetime.

The 25-year-old teacher was helping archaeologists excavate an 800-year-old log cabin, high above the Arctic Circle on the northern coast of Alaska.

They had pitched tents right on the beach. Over the course of a month, Peterson watched a gigantic pod of beluga whales swim along the beach, came face-to-face with a hungry polar bear invading their campsite and helped dig out the skull of a rare type of polar bear.

But the most memorable thing happened right at the end of the trip.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

There's a race on. The way to win is to eradicate a human disease. That's only been done once before - smallpox. This year, two diseases got tantalizingly close, but unexpected roadblocks have popped up. NPR's Michaeleen Doucleff reports.

It's not every day that surgeons develop a new brain surgery that could save tens of thousands of babies, even a hundred thousand, each year. And it's definitely not every day that the surgery is developed in one of the world's poorest countries.

But that's exactly what neurosurgeons from Boston and Mbale, Uganda, report Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The world's only vaccine against dengue has hit a roadblock, and this complication is causing some countries to restrict use of the vaccine.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post ran a big, feature about a seemingly scary disease, called monkeypox.

"It kills up to 1 in 10 of its victims, similar to pneumonic plague, and is particularly dangerous in children," the story observes at the beginning.

Plus, the virus appears to be on rise.

In 1954, a mysterious disease struck children in Manila. They were showing up at hospitals with internal bleeding. Their blood vessels were leaking.

Over the next few years, similar outbreaks cropped up every rainy season. And then in 1958, a massive outbreak hit Bangkok. More than 2,500 children were hospitalized. About 10 percent of them died.

For decades, scientists have been making predictions about how climate change will hurt health around the world.

But actually showing a link? That's been pretty tough.

Take for example, mosquito-borne diseases. It's easy to blame rising temperatures for the global spread of Zika or the explosion of dengue fever. Mosquitoes thrive in higher temperatures, right?

Earlier this month, the toy-giant Mattel announced it had pulled the plug on plans to sell an interactive gadget for children.

The device, called Aristotle, looked similar to a baby monitor with a camera. Critics called it creepy.

Powered by artificial intelligence, Aristotle could get to know your child — at least that was how the device was being pitched.

Health organizations are emphasizing that myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome is a serious long-term illness, not a psychological disorder, and that standard forms of exercise do not help. Instead, they're acknowledging that exercise can make the disease much worse unless doctors and patients are very careful.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already revised its patient guidelines on ME/CFS and is currently revising guidelines for physicians.

When it comes to microbes in sexual organs, the vagina and its fluids seem to garner most of the attention. Heck, there is even a consortium dedicated specifically to studying which critters live and thrive in its confines.

Really, who can blame scientists? The vagina's microbiome — or all the bacteria and viruses that inhabit it — can influence all sorts of health aspects, including the risk of miscarriage and HIV infection.

But now, the gentlemen are getting some attention on this front. And it's not bacteria we're talking about.

There's at least one thing Bill Gates and President Trump agree on: The media don't always get things right.

For Gates, the problem is with the foreign aid coverage.

"The nature of news is mostly to cover big setbacks," Gates says. "So if a little bit of money was spent improperly, that's what gets the news coverage, even though 99 percent of it was spent well."

This focus on failure leads to false impressions about the effectiveness of foreign aid, says Gates.

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