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.

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."

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

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

This spring and summer may be a doozy for Lyme disease, at least in parts of the Northeast.

"We're anticipating 2017 to be a particularly risky year for Lyme," says Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.

Ostfeld has been studying the debilitating tick-borne disease for more than 20 years, and has developed an early warning system based on mice. For more on that, check out the piece in our sister blog, Goats and Soda.

As expected, the Zika outbreak in Florida is growing — though how fast is still difficult to say.

State and federal health officials say mosquitoes are spreading Zika in two neighborhoods of Miami, including Miami Beach. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told pregnant women Friday not to go into these neighborhoods — and to consider postponing travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County.

It's official. The Zika virus has established a toehold in Florida.

Fourteen people likely caught Zika in a neighborhood north of downtown Miami, health officials said Monday. That means mosquitoes in that area have picked up the virus and are spreading it.

Zika can cause severe birth defects if a woman is infected at anytime during pregnancy.

So the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is doing something it has never done before: issuing a travel advisory to a part of the continental U.S. because of an outbreak of an infectious disease.

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.

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.

Selling breast milk is big business.

Each year tens of thousands of women post ads on websites, offering their extra milk for $1 to $3 an ounce: "My rich milk makes giants!" promises one seller. "Organic and Gluten Free Breastmilk," claims another. Then there's this one: "470 oz. of breastmilk must go!!!"

Hidden inside all of us are likely thousands of viruses — maybe more. They just hang out, harmlessly. We don't even know they're there.

But every once in a while, one of these viral inhabitants might help us out.

Young people infected with a type of herpes virus have a better immune response to the flu vaccine than those not infected, scientists at Stanford University report Wednesday. In mice, the virus directly stops influenza itself.

Malaria is one of the oldest scourges of mankind. Yet it's been a mystery how the deadliest form of the disease kills children.

One doctor in Michigan has dedicated her life to figuring that out. Now she and her team report their findings in this week's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The key to solving the mystery was looking inside the brain.

A few months ago, I met a grandpa whom I'll never forget.

His name is Edwin Koryan. And he's a pharmacist in Voinjama, Liberia. Edwin remembers the moment he felt the first symptoms of Ebola. He was taking care of his 5-year-old granddaughter Komasa. They were sharing a room and a bed.

In 1962, children's book author Roald Dahl lost his oldest daughter, Olivia, to measles. She was 7 years old.

Twenty-six years later, Dahl wrote a letter to parents about what happened:

Delhi belly. That's what my brother-in-law calls the rumble in his stomach he invariably gets on business trips to India.

Like many travelers, he pops a few Cipro when Dehli belly hits. That may stop the microbes causing the GI distress, but it also opens the door to another unwanted visitor: drug-resisted bacteria.

Most of us will remember 2014 as the year Ebola came to the U.S. But another virus made its debut in the Western Hemisphere. And unlike Ebola, it's not leaving anytime soon.

The virus is called chikungunya: You pronounce it a bit like "chicken-goon-ya."

A few years ago, disease ecologist David Hayman made the discovery of a lifetime.

He was a graduate student at the University of Cambridge. But he spent a lot of that time hiking through the rain forest of Ghana, catching hundreds of fruit bats.

"We would set large nets, up in the tree canopies," he says. "And then early morning, when the bats are looking for fruit to feed on, we'd captured them."

Hayman didn't want to hurt the bats. He just wanted a few drops of their blood.

Dengue — aka "breakbone fever" — has been a tough nut to crack when it comes to making a vaccine.

The problem is that the mosquito-borne virus comes in four flavors, or strains. Vaccines that work on one strain haven't worked well on the others.

Now scientists at Imperial College London have discovered a potential way around this problem.

Immunologist Gavin Screaton and his colleagues have found molecules — specifically antibodies — in human blood that stop all forms of dengue.

Speed. That's key to ending the Ebola epidemic, says the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Thomas Frieden is visiting West Africa this week to figure out how to reduce the time it takes to find new Ebola cases and isolate them.

Otherwise, Ebola could become a permanent disease in West Africa.

Viruses are masters at mutating.

So the big concern with deadly viruses, like Ebola and hepatitis C, is that they will evolve into more dangerous forms over time.

It looks like just the opposite is happening with HIV — although it's happening slowly.

"HIV can generate any mutation in the book, on any day," says virologist Philip Goulder at the University of Oxford.

Here's an Ebola puzzle for you: If the virus isn't airborne, why do doctors and nurses need to wear full protective suits, with face masks, while treating patients?

After we dug through studies and talked to scientists, the answer slowly emerged.

Ebola does spread through the air. But not through the airborne route.

Oh, goodness! No wonder there's been such a kerfuffle about how the virus is transmitted.

The headlines circulating on the Web Tuesday may have given you pause: "India's First Ebola Patient Has Been Quarantined," Time Magazine wrote on its website. "Man tests positive for Ebola, kept under isolation," Press Trust of India declared.

But those headlines don't tell the full story.

For more than two decades, Lucy Barh has been helping women deliver babies. Even during Liberia's violent civil war, when other midwives left, Barh stuck around.

But none of this prepared her for a patient she saw a few months ago.

"I was on duty that day when the patient came in," says Barh, at the headquarters of the Liberian Midwives' Association in Monrovia. "We did the examination. She was not in labor."

If it was a snake, it would have bitten us.

The secret to stopping a deadly stomach virus may be sitting right there in our guts, scientists reported Thursday in the journal Science. Or more specifically, the treatment is in our microbiome — the trillions of bacteria that inconspicuously hang out in the GI tracts.

Immunologists at Georgia State University found that a tiny piece of gut bacteria can prevent and cure a rotavirus infection in mice.

Editor's note: In an investigative report published on October 11, 2018, ProPublica and Time Magazine reported that an employee of More Than Me, a charity mentioned in this NPR story, raped many of the girls that the charity had been set up to protect.


If you want the inside scoop about what's happening with the Ebola outbreak, then just hang out at the Mamba Point Hotel in Monrovia.

Health officials are saying it. Scientists are saying it. Heck, even many journalists are saying it: "The risk of Ebola infection remains vanishingly small in this country," The New York Times wrote Wednesday.

But what does that mean? Are you more likely to be struck by lightning or catch Ebola?