Donald Thea

Donald M. Thea, MD, MSc

Professor, Global Health - Boston University School of Public Health


Dr. Thea received his MD from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a Masters of Science in tropical medicine from the London School of Hygiene and trained in infectious diseases in the Department of Geographic Medicine at New England Medical Center. He has pursued a full time career in both domestic and international clinical and epidemiological infectious disease research, primarily in issues related to child survival and in particular mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS and pneumonia. Dr. Thea was an early member of Project SIDA (Kinshasa, Zaire), the first international clinical HIV/AIDS research field site, where he did work on the etiology of diarrhea in perinatally acquired HIV infection and was the director of the Clinical Research Unit. He pursued his interest in perinatal transmission of HIV as the Principal Investigator of the New York City Collaborative Perinatal HIV Transmission Study. In 1998 he then joined the Health and Social Development Unit of the Harvard Institute for International Development where he focused on international field research in Acute Respiratory Illness, Malaria and HIV.

Dr. Thea joined the Global Health department along with the other members of the Harvard team where he is currently a Professor of Global Health and the Director of MD/MPH dual degree program. In this capacity, Dr. Thea provides senior technical leadership of a portfolio of projects addressing community treatment of neonatal sepsis, management of acute respiratory illness in children, community and facilities-based management of acute malaria, presumptive prophylaxis of malaria in pregnancy, social and behavioral aspects of HIV transmission and child sexual abuse. Dr. Thea has been the Principal Investigator of several large studies and program implementation projects including a prospective cohort study of postnatal HIV through breastmilk (the Zambia Exclusive Breastfeeding Study), the Zambia Boston University Malaria Project (ZAMBUMP), the Boston University PMTCT Integration Projects (BUPIP) – Southern Province Zambia. He is the Zambia Site PI for the Bill and Melinda Gates funded Pneumonia Etiology Research in Child Health (PERCH) through a subcontract with Johns Hopkins University.

Most recently, in 2018 Dr. Thea was awarded a 5-year R01 grant from NICHD (Zambia Infant Cohort Study - ZICS) to study the causes and risk factors for increased morbidity and mortality seen among children who are born to HIV-infected mothers but escaped infection themselves. These HIV-exposed but uninfected children are now estimated to number 14.8 million, worldwide and growing.

Along with Professors Gill and Fox, Dr. Thea have a bi-weekly podcast, Free Associations, which critically reviews the merit and rigor of recent scientific publications that have been noted in the popular press.

Other Positions

  • Director, Center for Global Health & Development - Boston University School of Public Health
  • Member, Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research - Boston University


  • Columbia University, MD Field of Study: Medicine
  • University of London, MSc Field of Study: Tropical Medicine
  • Antioch College, BS

Classes Taught

  • SPHGH805


  • Published on 6/1/2021

    Park DE, Higdon MM, Prosperi C, Baggett HC, Brooks WA, Feikin DR, Hammitt LL, Howie SRC, Kotloff KL, Levine OS, Madhi SA, Murdoch DR, O'Brien KL, Scott JAG, Thea DM, Antonio M, Awori JO, Baillie VL, Bunthi C, Kwenda G, Mackenzie GA, Moore DP, Morpeth SC, Mwananyanda L, Paveenkittiporn W, Ziaur Rahman M, Rahman M, Rhodes J, Sow SO, Tapia MD, Deloria Knoll M. Upper Respiratory Tract Co-detection of Human Endemic Coronaviruses and High-density Pneumococcus Associated With Increased Severity Among HIV-Uninfected Children Under 5 Years Old in the PERCH Study. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2021 06 01; 40(6):503-512. PMID: 33883479.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 3/29/2021

    Lohman-Payne B, Koster J, Gabriel B, Chilengi R, Forman LS, Heeren T, Duffy CR, Herlihy J, Crimaldi S, Gill C, Chavuma R, Mwananyanda L, Thea DM. Persistent Immune activation in HIV-Infected Pregnant Women Initiating cART Post Conception. J Infect Dis. 2021 Mar 29. PMID: 33780543.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 3/15/2021

    Camelo IY, Mwananyanda LM, Thea DM, Seidenberg P, Gill CJ, Weinstein JR. A Tale of 2 Pneumos: The Impact of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Exposure or Infection Status on Pediatric Nasopharyngeal Carriage of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Pneumocystis jiroveci: A Nested Case Control Analysis From the Pneumonia Etiology Research In Child Health Study. Clin Infect Dis. 2021 03 15; 72(6):1033-1041. PMID: 32342105.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 2/17/2021

    Mwananyanda L, Gill CJ, MacLeod W, Kwenda G, Pieciak R, Mupila Z, Lapidot R, Mupeta F, Forman L, Ziko L, Etter L, Thea D. Covid-19 deaths in Africa: prospective systematic postmortem surveillance study. BMJ. 2021 02 17; 372:n334. PMID: 33597166.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 12/31/2020

    Gunning CE, Mwananyanda L, MacLeod WB, Mwale M, Thea DM, Pieciak RC, Rohani P, Gill CJ. Implementation and adherence of routine pertussis vaccination (DTP) in a low-resource urban birth cohort. BMJ Open. 2020 12 31; 10(12):e041198. PMID: 33384391.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 11/26/2020

    Wang X, Li Y, Deloria-Knoll M, Madhi SA, Cohen C, Ali A, Basnet S, Bassat Q, Brooks WA, Chittaganpitch M, Echavarria M, Fasce RA, Goswami D, Hirve S, Homaira N, Howie SRC, Kotloff KL, Khuri-Bulos N, Krishnan A, Lucero MG, Lupisan S, Mira-Iglesias A, Moore DP, Moraleda C, Nunes M, Oshitani H, Owor BE, Polack FP, O'Brien KL, Rasmussen ZA, Rath BA, Salimi V, Scott JAG, Simões EAF, Strand TA, Thea DM, Treurnicht FK, Vaccari LC, Yoshida LM, Zar HJ, Campbell H, Nair H. Global burden of acute lower respiratory infection associated with human metapneumovirus in children under 5 years in 2018: a systematic review and modelling study. Lancet Glob Health. 2021 01; 9(1):e33-e43. PMID: 33248481.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 11/19/2020

    Gill CJ, Gunning CE, MacLeod W, Mwananyanda L, Thea D, Pieciak R, Kwenda G, Mupila Z, Rohani P. Asymptomatic Bordetella pertussis infections in young African infants and their mothers identified within a longitudinal cohort. medRxiv. 2020 Nov 19. PMID: 33236026.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 9/11/2020

    McCollum ED, Park DE, Watson NL, Fancourt NSS, Focht C, Baggett HC, Brooks WA, Howie SRC, Kotloff KL, Levine OS, Madhi SA, Murdoch DR, Scott JAG, Thea DM, Awori JO, Chipeta J, Chuananon S, DeLuca AN, Driscoll AJ, Ebruke BE, Elhilali M, Emmanouilidou D, Githua LP, Higdon MM, Hossain L, Jahan Y, Karron RA, Kyalo J, Moore DP, Mulindwa JM, Naorat S, Prosperi C, Verwey C, West JE, Knoll MD, O'Brien KL, Feikin DR, Hammitt LL. Digital auscultation in PERCH: Associations with chest radiography and pneumonia mortality in children. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2020 11; 55(11):3197-3208. PMID: 32852888.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 7/25/2020

    Ebruke BE, Knoll MD, Haddix M, Zaman SMA, Prosperi C, Feikin DR, Hammitt LL, Levine OS, O'Brien KL, R Murdoch D, Brooks WA, Scott JAG, Kotloff KL, Madhi SA, Thea DM, Baillie VL, Chisti MJ, Dione M, J Driscoll A, Fancourt N, Karron RA, Le TT, Mohamed S, Moore DP, C Morpeth S, Mwaba J, Mwansa J, Shahid ASMSB, Sow SO, Tapia MD, Antonio M, Howie SRC. The Aetiology of pneumonia from analysis of Lung aspirate and Pleural fluid samples: Findings from the PERCH study. Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Jul 25. PMID: 32710751.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 3/3/2020

    Gallagher KE, Knoll MD, Prosperi C, Baggett HC, Brooks WA, Feikin DR, Hammitt LL, Howie SRC, Kotloff KL, Levine OS, Madhi SA, Murdoch DR, O'Brien KL, Thea DM, Awori JO, Baillie VL, Ebruke BE, Goswami D, Kamau A, Maloney SA, Moore DP, Mwananyanda L, Olutunde EO, Seidenberg P, Sissoko S, Sylla M, Thamthitiwat S, Zaman K, Scott JAG. The Predictive Performance of a Pneumonia Severity Score in Human Immunodeficiency Virus-negative Children Presenting to Hospital in 7 Low- and Middle-income Countries. Clin Infect Dis. 2020 03 03; 70(6):1050-1057. PMID: 31111870.

    Read At: PubMed

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