Michaeleen Doucleff

Michaeleen Doucleff is a correspondent 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.

Back in the fall, Tom Wenseleers made a bold claim on Twitter. He tweeted that the new coronavirus variant emerging in the U.K. was more transmissible — or could spread more quickly — than over versions of the virus.

"I posted a graph [on Twitter] showing the U.K. variant had a transmission advantage over the other types of the virus," says Wenseleers, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

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Video by Xueying Chang, Kaz Fantone, Michaeleen Doucleff and Ben de la Cruz/NPR / YouTube

When will the pandemic end? How many more COVID-19 waves will the U.S. go through?

India is in the midst of a devastating second wave of COVID-19. For the past several weeks, cases and deaths have skyrocketed. The country is recording more than a quarter million cases per day.

In movies such as Contagion, a pandemic begins in a flash. A deadly virus spills over from an animal, like a pig, into humans and then quickly triggers an outbreak.

But that's not actually what happens, says Dr. Gregory Gray at the Duke Global Health Institute. "It's not like in the movies," he says, "where this virus goes from a pig in Indonesia and causes a pandemic."

This week, the World Health Organization finally released its long-awaited report about its investigation into how and where the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Although the main conclusions were roughly what the agency had already reported to the media, deep inside the 300-page paper there are tantalizing nuggets of information about the early days of the pandemic. And these points haven't yet been widely reported.

In particular, there's some juicy new evidence about where the virus came from — and how COVID was circulating widely through Wuhan before December 2019.

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Editor's note: This story was updated on Tuesday after the World Health Organization report was released.

The highly anticipated World Health Organization report on the origins of the coronavirus that sparked a global pandemic was released on Tuesday.

According to the report, data suggests that the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was not the original source of the outbreak.

When the pandemic began last year, scientists went looking for the origins of the coronavirus. Right away, they made a huge discovery. It looked like the virus jumped from a bat into humans.

Now, scientists are worried that another coronavirus will strike again, from either a bat or some other animal. So they've gone hunting for potential sources — and the news is a bit concerning.

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It was a simple experiment. Lucia Alcala, a psychologist, built a tiny model grocery store with aisles and different items that she could put on a family's dining room table.

She and her colleagues brought the model store to 43 family's homes along California's Central Coast. Each family had a pair of siblings, ages 6 to 10.

At a news conference this week, the World Health Organization made a surprising statement: The coronavirus could possibly be transmitted on frozen packages of food.

"We know that the virus can persist and survive in conditions that are found in these cold and frozen environments," says Peter Ben Embarek, the food scientist who led the World Health Organization team that traveled to China to investigate the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. "But we don't really understand if the virus can then transmit to humans."

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The World Health Organization says it has wrapped up an investigation into COVID-19 in China. The goal was to learn about the origins of the pandemic. And here to tell us what they found is NPR's global health correspondent Michaeleen Doucleff.

Back in the spring of last year, a 45-year-old man went to the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston because of a coronavirus infection. Doctors treated him with steroids and discharged him five days later.

OK. So what in the heck is going on with all these variants? Why is everyone so worried? And how do they work?

To answer these questions, let's go back in time to January 2020, when we were all blissfully going about our lives, eating in restaurants, cramming into elevators at work and dancing at house parties on the weekends.

Back then, the coronavirus looked a bit like this (well, not really, but if it was made of Legos, it would look like this).

New coronavirus variants seem to be cropping up everywhere. There's one from the U.K., which is more contagious and already circulating in the United States. There's one from South Africa, which is forcing Moderna and Pfizer to reformulate their COVID-19 vaccines and create "booster" shots, just to make sure the vaccines maintain their efficacies.

Back in April, COVID-19 hit the city of Manaus, Brazil, extremely hard. In fact, the outbreak there was arguably the worst in the world. One study, published in the journal Science, estimated that so many people were infected that the city could have reached herd immunity — that the outbreak there slowed down because up to 76% of the population had protection against the virus.

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Updated Friday Jan. 15, 7:35 p.m.

A highly contagious version of the coronavirus is rapidly spreading across the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Friday.

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Here in the U.S., communities see a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. With the vaccinations now occurring across the country, health officials are optimistic that the outbreak could be under control by the end of this year.

But the pandemic won't be over. Across the globe, the virus will still be circulating widely, even surging, in many countries.

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A new variant of the coronavirus is sweeping through England. At the same time, the country is reporting a record-high number of COVID-19 cases – nearly 40,000 on Wednesday — as well as surges in hospitalizations and deaths. In London last week, an estimated 2% of people in private households tested positive for the coronavirus, The Independent reported.

So the big question is: Are these events connected? Is the new variant causing this surge?

A new variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in England and raising international alarms. This new variant now accounts for more than 60% of the cases in London. And scientists say the variant is likely more contagious than previous versions of the virus.

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COVID-19 is now the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. for 2020. The virus has killed more than 90 people per 100,000, reports Johns Hopkins University.

But in other parts of the world, the virus hasn't been such a big problem. It's not a top killer. Some global health experts are beginning to ask whether immunizing large swaths of the population is the best use of resources for these countries.

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Health care workers first, along with residents and staff of nursing homes. Those people should receive the COVID-19 vaccine before anyone else, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

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Why does a disease hit some countries or regions hard and largely spares others?

For example, the virus that causes COVID-19 has surged so strongly in North and South America. But it has been less of a problem in Africa and many parts of Asia.

This week, the world heard encouraging news about a vaccine for COVID-19.

On Monday, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, and its partner BioNTech, said their experimental vaccine appears to work – and work quite well. A preliminary analysis suggests the vaccine is more than 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 symptoms.

Health officials hope to start vaccinating some Americans in a few months.

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