Dr O'Donnell, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary Medicine) and of Epidemiology & Population Health, has a research focus on tuberculosis (TB), HIV, and global health. Current research is centered in South Africa and involves collaboration with the Jacobs' lab at Einstein, the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute on TB/HIV (K-RITH), and the Centre for AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA).
Drug-resistant tuberculosis is an important global public health concern because of increasing incidence, low cure rates, and high reported mortality. Nowhere has this increased incidence generated more concern than in South Africa where interactions between TB and generalized HIV/AIDS epidemics are causing explosive increases in TB incidence and TB case-fatality rates. The most drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), is increasingly prevalent in South Africa.
Dr. O'Donnell's team has published describing widespread transmission of MDR-TB and XDR-TB among South African health care workers (HCW). Ongoing qualitative research seeks to understand determinants of HCW risk
The team has described clinical treatment outcomes for patients with XDR-TB and HIV co-infection. Ongoing work includes a cohort study of using later generation fluoroquinolones, and clofazamine, a leprosy drug, for XDR-TB treatment.
Working with the Jacobs lab, Dr. O'Donnell is involved in designing clinical studies to use the fluoromycobacteriaphage assay to quantify response to treatment, predict early treatment outcome, and detect worsening of drug-resistance in real-time among XDR-TB patients on treatment. Working with Dr. William Bishai's lab (K-RITH), he is working on genotyping XDR-TB isolates from patients on treatment in order to understand mutations associated with acquired resistance.