Rob Stein

Rob Stein is a correspondent and senior editor on NPR's science desk.

An award-winning science journalist with more than 25 years of experience, Stein mostly covers health and medicine. He tends to focus on stories that illustrate the intersection of science, health, politics, social trends, ethics, and federal science policy. He tracks genetics, stem cells, cancer research, women's health issues and other science, medical, and health policy news.

Before NPR, Stein worked at The Washington Post for 16 years, first as the newspaper's science editor and then as a national health reporter. Earlier in his career, Stein spent about four years as an editor at NPR's science desk. Before that, he was a science reporter for United Press International (UPI) in Boston and the science editor of the international wire service in Washington.

Stein is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He completed a journalism fellowship at the Harvard School of Public Health, a program in science and religion at the University of Cambridge, and a summer science writer's workshop at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

Stein's work has been honored by many organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Cigarette smoking among U.S. high school students has dropped to the lowest level in 22 years, federal health officials reported Thursday.

The percentage of students who reported smoking a cigarette at least one day in the last 30 days fell to 15.7 percent in 2013, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a large federal survey that has been tracking youth smoking since 1991.

Robin Reath was getting a routine checkup recently when her doctor brought up something new about cervical cancer screening.

"We might be doing something a little bit different than what we've been doing in the past when we've screened you," said Dr. Andrea Singer, an internist at the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington.

The second U.S. case of a dangerous new virus from the Middle East has been found in Florida, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

The patient is a health care worker from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who developed symptoms May 1 while traveling to Orlando, Fla., to visit family, the CDC said.

The World Health Organization is revisiting a question that's been the subject of intense debate for decades: whether to destroy the only known samples of the smallpox virus.

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And I'm Robert Siegel. The first case of MERS has been confirmed in the U.S. MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Virus Syndrome. Health officials say a man in Indiana was hospitalized on Monday and is in stable condition. NPR's Rob Stein reports that while precautions are being taken to contain the virus, there is no reason for widespread alarm.

Scientists reported Thursday they had figured out a way to make primitive human sperm out of skin cells, an advance that could someday help infertile men have children.

"I probably get 200 emails a year from people who are infertile, and very often the heading on the emails is: Can you help me?" says Renee Reijo Pera of Montana State University, who led the research when she was at Stanford University.

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The Food and Drug Administration Thursday proposed regulating e-cigarettes for the first time.

The agency unveiled a long-awaited rule that would give it power to oversee the increasingly popular devices, much in the way that it regulates traditional cigarettes.

A key government panel Tuesday voted unanimously against approval of a powerful opioid prescription painkiller intended to provide faster relief with fewer side effects.

At the conclusion of a hearing, the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted 14-0 against recommending that the agency approve Moxduo, the first drug to combine morphine and oxycodone into one capsule.

The Food and Drug Administration is trying to decide whether to approve a powerful new prescription painkiller that's designed to relieve severe pain quickly, and with fewer side effects than other opioids.

While some pain experts say the medicine could provide a valuable alternative for some patients in intense pain, the drug (called Moxduo) is also prompting concern that it could exacerbate the epidemic of abuse of prescription painkillers and overdoses.

A lot of us know what can happen when we get hungry. We get grumpy, irritable and sometimes nasty.

There's even a name for this phenomenon: "Hangry, which is a combination of the words hungry and angry," says psychologist Brad Bushman from Ohio State University.

Ever since the day Garrett Peterson was born, his parents have had to watch him suddenly just stop breathing.

"He could go from being totally fine to turning blue sometimes — not even kidding — in 30 seconds," says Garrett's mother, Natalie Peterson, 25, of Layton, Utah. "It was so fast. It was really scary."

The particular assortment of microbes in the digestive system may be an important factor in the inflammatory bowel condition known as Crohn's disease.

Research involving more than 1,500 patients found that people with Crohn's disease had less diverse populations of gut microbes.

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A new blood test offers pregnant women a safe and much more accurate way to screen for Down syndrome.

A study that evaluated the test in 1,914 pregnancies found that the test, which checks DNA, produces far fewer false alarms than the current screening techniques.

A panel of government advisers has expressed serious concerns about a controversial proposal to allow scientists to try to make babies using eggs that have been genetically altered to include DNA from another woman.

Members of the Food and Drug Administration panel said they were worried that not enough research has been done to know whether the experiments would be safe.

This year's flu season is hitting younger and middle-aged adults unusually hard, federal health officials say.

More than 60 percent of flu patients who ended up in the hospital this year have been between the ages of 18 and 64. The proportion of young people among the hospitalized is much higher than usual, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only about 35 percent of flu patients who were hospitalized in the previous three years fell into that age group, the CDC says.

Ten years ago Dennis Sorensen was setting off fireworks to celebrate New Year's Eve with his family in Denmark when something terrible happened.

"Unfortunately one of the rockets we had this evening was not good and when we light it then it just blew up and, yeah, my hand was, was not that good anymore," says Sorensen.

When it comes to persuading teenagers not to smoke, you have to think short-term, the Food and Drug Administration says.

"While most teens understand the serious health risks associated with tobacco use, they often don't believe the long-term consequences will ever apply to them," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told reporters Monday before unveiling the agency's first-ever anti-smoking campaign.

A lot of parents like to think their kids will simply outgrow baby fat. But the risk of becoming a severely overweight adult can actually start as early as kindergarten, research suggests.

"As parents, as a society, as clinicians, we need to think about a healthy weight really early on," says Solveig Cunningham, who led the study. But that doesn't mean putting young children on calorie-restricted diets.

When Melissa Shenewa and her husband imagined their first weeks with their new baby, they pictured hours of cuddling. Instead, they're enduring hours of inconsolable crying.

Their 6-week-old son, Aladdin, is a colicky baby. He cries for hours, usually in the middle of the night. They've tried everything they could think of. Nothing helps.

"Being a parent when your child is screaming in pain for hours on end and there's nothing you can do, you feel helpless," says Shenewa, 24, who lives in Houston. "You feel like you're not a good parent."

Could the microbes that inhabit our guts help explain that old idea of "gut feelings?" There's growing evidence that gut bacteria really might influence our minds.

"I'm always by profession a skeptic," says Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. "But I do believe that our gut microbes affect what goes on in our brains."

Here's possible solace for parents who are up at night with a baby who gets sick all the time: There appears to be a good reason why infant immune systems don't fight off germs.

A newborn's immune system is deliberately not doing battle with every germ that comes along so that "good" microbes have a chance to settle in, researchers say. That explanation is at odds with the widely held belief that those new immune systems are just too weak to do the job.

The next time you look in a mirror, think about this: In many ways you're more microbe than human. There are 10 times more cells from microorganisms like bacteria and fungi in and on our bodies than there are human cells.

Scientists increasingly think that these microorganisms have a huge influence on our health. Without them, our bodies don't seem to do as well. We don't seem to be as healthy and might actually get sick more often.

After spending months working on a series of stories about the trillions of friendly microbes that live in and on our bodies, I decided it might be interesting to explore my own microbiome.

So I pulled out my credit card and paid the $99 needed to sign up for the American Gut Project, one of a couple of "citizen science" or crowdsourced microbiome projects.

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