Mapping the pneumococcal genome

March 8, 2013

Pneumonia is the leading cause of death for children globally. For several years, Keith Klugman, MD/PhD, has focused on ways to reduce deaths from pneumonia and determined the most effective way is through vaccination. In early 2000, he helped develop a pneumococcal vaccine that was first administered in the U.S. and has led efforts to extend the vaccine globally and widen its scope of protection to include strains that occur in developing countries. 

"Vaccinating children reduces the burden of disease in the community through a process called herd protection,” explains Klugman. "Herd protection eliminates the spread of the organism in the community while also reducing the burden of the disease in the country. Administering the vaccine to enough children will also protect unvaccinated children."

Through funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Klugman is currently working on the largest ever sequencing project that reads the DNA of 20,000 pneumococcal strains globally before and after the introduction of the vaccine in developing countries. By doing so, the team is able to measure the escape of the vaccine and devise next-generation vaccines that are able to manage that escape. 

Klugman, the William H. Foege Chair of Global Health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, received the 2013 Albert E. Levy Scientific Research Award for Senior Faculty at Emory University. The Levy Award recognizes outstanding scientific research contributions of Emory faculty members. Each year, junior and senior faculty recipients are selected by the University Research Committee and by previous winners of the award.  Dr. Klugman was awarded for his work on the rapid test for pneumococcal pneumonia.

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