Donald M. Thea, MD, MSc

Professor, Global Health
Donald Thea
Crosstown Center – 391
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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
  • University of London, MSc
  • Antioch College, BS

Classes Taught

  • SPHGH805


  • Published on 8/27/2020

    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 Aug 27. 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 Mar 03; 70(6):1050-1057. PMID: 31111870.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 2/15/2020

    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. 2020 Feb 15. PMID: 32342105.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/1/2019

    Brennan AT, Bonawitz R, Gill CJ, Thea DM, Kleinman M, Long L, McCallum C, Fox MP. A Meta-analysis Assessing Diarrhea and Pneumonia in HIV-Exposed Uninfected Compared With HIV-Unexposed Uninfected Infants and Children. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2019 09 01; 82(1):1-8. PMID: 31408450.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 7/18/2019

    Sadruddin S, Khan IUH, Fox MP, Bari A, Khan A, Thea DM, Khan A, Khan I, Ahmad I, Qazi SA. Comparison of 3 Days Amoxicillin Versus 5 Days Co-Trimoxazole for Treatment of Fast-breathing Pneumonia by Community Health Workers in Children Aged 2-59 Months in Pakistan: A Cluster-randomized Trial. Clin Infect Dis. 2019 07 18; 69(3):397-404. PMID: 30596964.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 6/27/2019

    Causes of severe pneumonia requiring hospital admission in children without HIV infection from Africa and Asia: the PERCH multi-country case-control study. Lancet. 2019 08 31; 394(10200):757-779. PMID: 31257127.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 4/10/2018

    Larson Williams A, McCloskey L, Mwale M, Mwananyanda L, Murray K, Herman AR, Thea DM, MacLeod WB, Gill CJ. "When you are injected, the baby is protected:" Assessing the acceptability of a maternal Tdap vaccine based on mothers' knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of pertussis and vaccinations in Lusaka, Zambia. Vaccine. 2018 05 17; 36(21):3048-3053. PMID: 29653846.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 10/10/2017

    Henry EG, Thea DM, Hamer DH, DeJong W, Musokotwane K, Chibwe K, Biemba G, Semrau K. The impact of a multi-level maternal health programme on facility delivery and capacity for emergency obstetric care in Zambia. Glob Public Health. 2018 10; 13(10):1481-1494. PMID: 28994352.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 8/25/2017

    Gill C, Rohani P, Thea DM. The relationship between mucosal immunity, nasopharyngeal carriage, asymptomatic transmission and the resurgence of Bordetella pertussis. F1000Res. 2017; 6:1568. PMID: 28928960.

    Read at: PubMed

View 167 more publications:View full profile at BUMC

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