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Katherine O'Brien, MD

  • Professor

Departmental Affiliations

Center & Institute Affiliations

Contact Information

415 N. Washington Street
Room 563
Baltimore, Maryland 21231


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MPH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 1994
MD, McGill University, 1988


My interests center around the clinical and epidemiological aspects of vaccine preventable bacterial and viral infections of children. My research focuses on nasopharyngeal colonization, disease rates, serotype distribution and vaccine prevention of Streptococcus pneumoniae both domestically and internationally, including the evaluation and introduction of pneumococcal vaccines in the developing world. In addition to my focus on pneumococcal disease control, is an interest in the epidemiology and control efforts (through vaccination of infants and mothers, use of biologics and risk factor reduction) for pneumonia, acute lower respiratory infections, meningitis and sepsis.  Pathogens of particular interest for me include RSV, influenza, group A Streptococcus and group B Streptococcus.

My field work has focused on conducting large phase III IND trials of novel vaccines to control the above mentioned diseases, as well as phase IV studies of vaccine impact.  Domestically I work with American Indian tribes to identify and assess interventions to reduce the disproportionate morbidity from infectious diseases in these populations.  Globally I work largely with researchers and public health officials in low-income countries of south Asia and Africa to assure that life-saving interventions are available and optimally implemented.  In addition to field based work, our work has also included modeling of global burden of disease for these pathogens, strategic analyses that move research findings into the policy arena on the optimal use of vaccines, and more basic epidemiologic work on the role of pathogens and risk factors in the development of pneumonia.  

I serve as the Executive Director of the International Vaccine Access Center and as the Associate Director of the Center for American Indian Health.  Presently I am a member of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) advising the World Health Organization on global vaccine policy.   


Honors and Awards

2011:  President's Early Career Award for Science and Engineering. 2008: Sabin Vaccine Institute, Young Investigator Award. 2003: Nominee, Outstanding Scientific Contribution to Public Health Award, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2001: CDC, Honor Award for outstanding scientific contributions to public health, Group B Streptococcal Prevention Team 1999: CDC, 1999 Nakano Citation, for the Haiti diethylene glycol poisoning investigation. 1998: Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award, Department of Health and Human Services 1997: CDC Mackel Award epidemic investigation which best combines epidemiology and laboratory work. 1997: CDC Group Honor Award for The Haiti Emergency Response Team 1997: Food and Drug Administration Group Recognition Award.For meritorious service in the investigation of an international public health crisis which was associated with the contamination of pharmaceuticals by diethylene glycol.

  • pneumococcus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, clinical trials, American Indian, vaccines, RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, Hib, Haemophilus influenzae, pediatric infectious disease, child survival, pneumonia

Selected recent publications

  • Von Gottberg A, de Gouveia L, Tempia S, Quan V, Meiring S, von Mollendorf C, Madhi SA, Zell ER, Verani J, O'Brien KL, Whitney CG, Klugman KP, Cohen C, GERMS-SA.  Decline in invasive pneumococcal disease and evidence of herd protection after pneumococcal conjugate vaccine introduction in South Africa. N Engl J Med 2014; 371:1889-99.

  • Weinberger D, Grant LR, Steiner C, Weatherholtz R, Santosham M, Viboud C, O’Brien KL.  Seasonal drivers of pneumococcal disease incidence:  Impact of bacterial carriage and viral activity. Clin Infect Dis 2014;58(2):188-94.  

  • Feikin DR, Kagucia EW, Loo J, Link-Gelles R, Puhan M, Cherian T, Levine OS, Whitney CG, O’Brien KL, Moore MR, for the Serotype Replacement Study Group.  Meta-analysis of serotype-specific changes in invasive pneumococcal disease after pneumococcal conjugate vaccine introduction.  PLoS Medicine. 2013;10(9). e1001517 

  • Levine OS,  O’Brien KL, Knoll M, Murdoch DR, Feikin DR, DeLuca AN, Driscoll AJ, Baggett HC, Brooks A, Howie SRC, Kotloff KL, Madhi SA, Maloney SA, Sow S, Thea DW, Scott JAG. The Pneumonia Etiology Research for Child Health Project: a 21st century childhood pneumonia etiology study.  Clin Infect Dis 2012;54(S2):S93-101

  • O’Brien KL, Wolfson LJ, Watt JP, Henkle E, Knoll MD, McCall N, Lee E, Mulholland K, Levine OS, Cherian T, for the Hib and Pneumococcal Global Disease Burden Study Team. The global burden of disease due to Streptococcus pneumoniae in children less than 5 years of age.  Lancet 2009; 374:893-902.