Russell Kempker, MD, MSc

Assistant Professor of Medicine

Division of Infectious Diseases

NIH Fogarty International Center

Emory-Georgia Tuberculosis Program

NIH Fogarty International Center

Ethiopia-Emory Tuberculosis Program

Phone: 404-251-8701


Research Interests

The global emergence of multidrug and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) is an enormous public health threat and major barrier to effective TB control. Response rates to second-line anti-TB drugs (SLDs) used to treat MDR-TB are significantly and substantially lower than those for drug susceptible TB, and recent reports highlight the substantial risk of developing of additional drug resistance during SLD treatment. My current research focuses on studying the pharmacology of SLDs and newly introduced TB drugs specifically looking at how well these antibiotics penetrate into TB cavitary lesions. Cavitary lesions are a hallmark of TB and the presence of a cavity has been associated with treatment failure, higher rates of relapse and drug amplification. However, there is scarce human data evaluating the penetration of drugs into these lesions. We have developed a model to measure intra cavitary drug concentrations among patients undergoing surgical resection with a goal of characterizing this property for all drugs used to treat MDR and XDR, including the newly introduced drugs linezolid, bedaquiline, and clofazimine. We are also using culture and whole genome sequencing methods to study whether the cavity is a site of high rates of amplified drug resistance and M. tuberculosis mutation. We have also begun a prospective cohort study to evaluate the serum pharmacokinetics of newly introduced TB drugs and the association of drug concentrations with culture conversion and development of antibiotic resistance.