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Tara Greenhow, MD

Pediatric Infectious Diseases, KP San Francisco

“I get a lot of pleasure from my clinical practice on a day-to-day basis,” Dr. Greenhow says. “But I do research to effect change on a national level—to have a positive impact on the families I don’t know.”

The incidence of bacteremia among febrile infants and young children prior to the introduction of the conjugated pneumococcal vaccine in 2000 was between 1% and 4%. Today we know the incidence is dramatically lower—approximately 0.2%—thanks to the vaccine, and to recent research conducted by Tara Greenhow, MD.

Dr. Greenhow’s study, published in Pediatrics in March 2017*, examined changes in the rates of all bacteremia—not just pneumococcal bacteremia— in children 3 months to 3 years old over a 16-year period. “We wanted to look at the rates of all causes of bacteremia to determine whether and how they changed in proportion to pneumococcal bacteremia,” Dr. Greenhow explains.

She and her colleagues analyzed data from over 57,000 blood cultures collected from 1998 to 2014 by leveraging KP Northern California’s electronic medical record system, producing several key findings.

First, the vaccine contributed to a 95% decline in pneumococcal bacteremia. Second, most children who get bacteremia today in the post-vaccine era are getting it from sources other than pneumococcus bacterium, like E. coli, Salmonella species, and S. aureus.

“In this era of vaccine questioning, it’s been really gratifying to see how beneficial this vaccine is,” says Betty Suh-Burgmann, MD, chair of KP Northern California’s Central Research Committee. “Not only has the vaccine saved thousands of lives, but because of Dr. Greenhow’s contribution, we have a much better understanding of the changing epidemiology of bacteremia.”

*“Bacteremia in Children 3 to 36 Months Old After Introduction of Conjugated Pneumococcal Vaccines”

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