Faculty Profile

Dr. Max R. O'Donnell, M.D.

Max R. O'Donnell, M.D.

Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine (Pulmonary Medicine)

Professional Interests

My research interests are in tuberculosis (TB), HIV, and global health including ethical issues in global health research. 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 generaliz ed 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.


Our team has published describing widespread transmission of MDR-TB and XDR-TB among South African health care workers. We have also shown that female gender is an independent risk factor for XDR-TB in South Africa not explained by higher rates of HIV infection or increased previous treatment for TB.


Our 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, I am 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.

Selected Publications

O'Donnell MR, Chamblee S, Moreland JL, Marsh BJ, Narita M, Johnson LS, von Reyn CF Horsburgh CR. Sustained reduction in tuberculosis incidence following a community-based participatory intervention. Public Health Act. 2012.  


Jain P, Hartman TE, Eisenberg N, O’Donnell MR, Kriakov J, Govender K, Makume M, Thaler DS, Hatfull GF, Sturm AW, Larsen MH, Moodley P, and Jacobs WR. ф2GFP10: A high-intensity fluorophage for detection and rapid drug susceptibility testing of Mycobacterium tuberculosis directly from sputum samples. J Clin Micro. 2012.  


O'Donnell MR, Zelnick J, Werner L, Master I, Loveday M, Horsburgh CR, Padayatchi N. Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in Women, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011 Oct;17(10):1942-5. 


Brust JC, O'Donnell MR, Metcalfe JZ. TB/HIV: An Orphan Disease? Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011 Jun 1;183(11):1441-2.


O'Donnell MR., Chamblee S., Moreland J.L., Johnson J., Marsh B.J., Narita M., Johnson L.S., von Reyn C.F. Horsburgh C.R. Racial Disparities in Primary and Reactivation Tuberculosis in a Rural Community in the Southeastern U.S. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2010;14(6):733-40. PMID: 20487612


Horsburgh C.R., O'Donnell MR., Chamblee S., Moreland J.L., Johnson J., Marsh B.J., Narita M., Johnson L.S., von Reyn C.F. Revisiting rates of reactivation tuberculosis: a population-based approach. Am J Resp and Crit Care Med. 2010 Apr 15. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 20395560


O'Donnell MR, Jarand J, Loveday M, Padayatchi N, Zelnick J, Werner L, Naidoo K, Master I, Osburn G, Kvasnovsky C, Shean K, Pai M, Van der Walt M, Horsburgh CR, Dheda K. High Incidence of Hospital Admissions with Multidrug Resistant and Extensively Drug Resistant Tuberculosis among South African Health Care Workers. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2010 Oct 19;153(8):516-22.PMID: 20956708


Jarand J, Dheda K, Shean K, O’Donnell M, Loveday M, Kvasnovsky C, Van der Walt M, Adams S, O’Grady J, Willcox P and Zumla A. Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) among health care workers in South Africa. Trop Med Int Health. 2010 Oct;15(10):1179-84.


O’Donnell MR, Saukkonen JJ. Chapter 161: Antimycobacterial Agents. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th Edition. McGraw-Hill Professional. 2010. In press.


Walkey AJ, O’Donnell MR, Soylemez-Wiener R. Linezolid versus Glycopeptide Antibiotics for the Treatment of Suspected Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Nosocomial Pneumonia: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Chest. 2010 Sep 23. [Epub ahead of print]


Farber HW, Walkey AJ, O'Donnell MR. Ethical issues associated with globalization of placebo-controlled trials in pulmonary arterial hypertension.J Heart Lung Transplant. Correspondence. 2010 Apr 22. [Epub ahead of print]


O'Donnell MR, Padayatchi N, Master I, Osburn G, Horsburgh CR. Improved early results for patients with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis and HIV in South Africa. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2009; 13:855-61. PMCID: 19 555535


Zelnick J, O'Donnell M. The impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on hospital nurses in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa: nurses' perspectives and implications for health policy. J Pub Health Policy. 2005; 26(2):163-85 PMCID: 16022210

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Research Information

In the News

The Wall Street Journal interviews Dr. Max O’Donnell for a front-page story on a TB “hotbed” that developed in a South African prison.

More media coverage