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.

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.

Scientists — and anyone who lives with a canine — know that dogs pay close attention to the emotion in our voices. They listen for whether our tone is friendly or mean, how the pitch goes up or down and even the rhythms in our speech.

But what about the meaning of the words we say?

Sure, a few studies have reported on supersmart dogs that know hundreds of words. Chaser, a border collie in South Carolina, even learned 1,022 nouns and commands to go with them.

An outbreak of the plague has sickened at least 119 people and killed 40 in Madagascar, the World Health Organization reports Friday.

The outbreak started back in August in a rural village, WHO said. Then it spread to seven of Madagascar's 22 regions. Two cases have occurred in the country's capital of Antananarivo.

"There is now a risk of a rapid spread of the disease due to the city's high population density and the weakness of the health care system," the WHO writes.

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.

In his new book about Ebola, science writer David Quammen has some harsh words for the author of another book about the virus — Richard Preston's best-seller The Hot Zone.

Liberians love fashion. Even in tiny villages in the rain forest, men drive motorcycles wearing aviator sunglasses, gold watches and brightly colored polo shirts — yellow, pink or purple — sometimes with the collars turned up.

At church on Sunday, women wouldn't dare wear a dress bought off the shelf. Instead, they carefully select fabrics with vibrant patterns and then have tailors sew impeccably fitted frocks.

Liberian conversations are no different: They're filled with flair and aplomb.

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.

It's packed with scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, international reporters and a bunch of guys and gals in camouflage from the U.S. Army.

Ebola screening for passengers flying out of Monrovia's airport on Monday night wasn't functioning like a well-oiled machine. Parts of it were chaotic and slightly concerning.

After 10 days of reporting in Liberia, we arrived at the airport to take two of the same flights that Thomas Eric Duncan took last month: Monrovia to Brussels and then on to Dulles in Virginia. There were three of us: me, another reporter and a producer.

Before we went inside the terminal, a woman from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention greeted us outside.

At the Ebola treatment center in Foya, Liberia, there's one thought on every American volunteer's mind: 21 days of isolation.

The threat of quarantines for health care workers coming back from West Africa cropped up in nearly every conversation I had on Saturday with doctors and nurses at the clinic run by Doctors Without Borders.

Everyone was worried, especially a nurse from New York City. Some states, like New York, New Jersey and Illinois, are already requiring 21-day quarantines, possibly in hospitals, for all medical staff coming home. Others might follow.

Working in Ebola hotspots is old hat for NPR. We've had reporters and photographers at the epidemic since April. Our global health correspondent Jason Beaubien has been to West Africa three times during the crisis.

This week it's my turn.

When I left the U.S. last week, I brought a list of tips from veteran Ebola reporters for keeping myself safe. Many of them are proving to be quite useful:

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?

Flying into the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic is actually anti-climactic.

We landed on Friday night. And by Saturday morning, we realized that people around Monrovia, Liberia, are generally going about their business as usual — they're just washing their hands a lot more and trying not to touch each other.

The city of a million people is now reporting about 30 Ebola cases each day. On the surface, you really wouldn't know there was an epidemic of the world's scariest disease going on, except that every now and then an Ebola ambulance zooms past with its sirens on.

A few weeks ago, scientists issued a dire warning about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa: If nothing changes, the world could have tens of thousands of cases in the coming months.

So how can we tell if things have started to change — if international aid is starting to work?

Pages