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.

After you see a case of elephantiasis, you can never forget it.

People's legs, feet and toes swell up so much that they can't walk. Or move easily. The skin thickens and breaks open, creating ulcers and infections.

"It causes so much pain. So much pain," says epidemiologist Christine Kihembo, at Makerere University School of Public Health in Kampala, Uganda.

Next week I'll be hopping on a plane for an 11-hour ride to Europe with a strong-willed, 1 1/2-year-old toddler.

A big concern is how to deal with the inevitable meltdowns. But my top priority before boarding is about my little girl's health: Is she protected from the measles?

The virus — which kills almost 400 kids each day worldwide — is hitting Europe hard this year.

Health officials have published the first comprehensive view of Zika-linked birth defects occurring in the U.S.

The study is the largest so far to estimate the risk of severe birth defects from Zika infections in pregnant women, researchers report Wednesday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,

Back in 2015, Brazil reported a horrific a surge in birth defects. Thousands of babies were born with brain damage and abnormally small heads, a condition called microcephaly.

Scientists quickly concluded the Zika virus was the culprit. So when Zika returned last year during Brazil's summer months of December, January and February — when mosquitoes are most active — health officials expected another surge in microcephaly cases.

But that never happened.

It's not every day that the world gets a new tool that could save 100,000 children each year.

And it's definitely not every day that the secret to that tool is the same thing that makes space ice cream so memorable.

Sounds crazy. But bear with me a moment.

Scientists say they have a new vaccine that's about 70 percent effective against rotavirus — a nasty little pathogen that gives children bad diarrhea here in the U.S. but kills more than 200,000 children each year in developing countries.

A few years ago, Dr. Gregory Thomas thought he had finally found the Holy Grail of heart disease. And it was even found in a tomb.

He was studying the arteries of 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummies, and he thought this was finally it: a culture that would be free of heart disease. Heart disease couldn't be more than 3,000 years old, could it?

Man, he was disappointed.

No matter how you slice it, outbreaks are becoming more common. Overseas, there's been Ebola, Zika and yellow fever. And here at home, we're seeing a surge in tick-borne diseases, with Lyme leading the way.

For the past month, NPR has been looking at why this is the case. Deforestation lets animal viruses jump into people. Factory farming amplifies the problem. And then international tourism spreads the new diseases around the globe.

But throughout our series, there's been something else on people's minds.

Last summer Felicia Keesing returned from a long trip and found that her home in upstate New York had been subjected to an invasion.

"There was evidence of mice everywhere. They had completely taken over," says Keesing, an ecologist at Bard College.

It was a plague of mice. And it had landed right in Keesing's kitchen.

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.

It was a balmy Sunday evening in early 1999, and Dr. Kaw Bing Chua hadn't had lunch or dinner.

There wasn't time to eat. Chua was chasing a killer. And he thought maybe he had finally tracked it down.

He slid the slide under the microscope lens, turned on the scope's light and looked inside. "A chill went down my spine," Chua says. "The slide lit up bright green, like bright green lanterns."

Pages