Department of Microbiology and Immunology

David Russell

Dr. AugustThe William Kaplan Professor of Infection Biology

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
C5 109 Veterinary Medical Center
Phone: 607-253-4272

PhD (Imperial College, London University)


Dr. Russell assumed his position as Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in July 2000.  He stepped down from his Chair's position in 2010 and now concentrates on his research work. His previous experience was as professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis, where he had worked since 1990. He received a B.Sc. degree in Zoology from St. Andrews University in Scotland in 1979 and was awarded a Ph.D. from Imperial College, London University in 1982. He has held positions at the University of Kent, the Max-Planck-Institute in Tuebingen, and NYU School of Medicine prior to moving to St. Louis. His research program continues to be supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health for research into the biology of Mycobacterium and the role of the macrophage in infection. 


Research Interests

Dr. Russell’s laboratory’s research focuses on the interplay between the macrophage and several intracellular pathogens including Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Plasmodium falciparum (Pf). 

Tuberculosis: The success of Mtb as a pathogen depends on the ability of the bacterium to survive and persist within the host macrophage.  We are actively engaged in studying the behavior of both partners in this intimate relationship. On the macrophage side of the equation the lab has been developing real-time, functional readouts for the lumenal environment within the phagosome, such as hydrolytic activity and radical production, and determining these are modified by immune stimuli and infection. On the bacterial side the group is interested in how the bacterium modifies its intracellular compartment to ensure its survival, and how the bacterium senses and responds metabolically to this changing environment.   This information is being used as the foundation for high-throughput screens to identify small molecules that kill M. tuberculosis inside its host cell.  A project pursued in collaboration with Calibr, San Diego.  We are also collaborating with researchers at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, examining ways of enhancing drug action in vivo.

HIV: In addition to infecting CD4 lymphocytes, HIV also infects macrophages, where it sets up a chronic, long-lived infection capable of generating infectious virus. The lab is studying how human alveolar macrophages respond to HIV and how HIV infection of the macrophage directly influences the ability of the body to control other infections, such as tuberculosis.  These human studies are pursued through a collaboration with the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Research Laboratories, Blantyre, Malawi. 

Malaria: Cerebral malaria is predominantly a pediatric syndrome that is responsible for the majority of deaths due to malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.  This is a new project in the lab that focuses on the role on monocytes and macrophages in driving the pathology that leads to death in cerebral malaria.  This work is pursued as a collaboration with the Michigan State University International Center for Excellence in Malaria Research group in Blantyre, Malawi.

The research is supported by grants from the NHLBI and NIAID institutes of the National Institutes of Health, and by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Graduate Fields

Dr. Russell is a member of the following Graduate Fields:


Lab Members

Linda Bennet, Research Assistant
Saikat Boliar, Postdoctoral Associate
Amanda Brown, Postdoctoral Associate
Shannon Caldwell, Research Assistant
David Gludish, Graduate Student
Lu Huang, Postdoctoral Associate
Kondwani Jambo, Postdoctoral Associate
Nicole Kushner, Laboratory Support
Evgeniya Nazarova, Graduate Student
Davide Pisu, Postdoctoral Associate
Dumizulu Tembo, Postdoctoral Associate
Tam Tran, Graduate Student

Lab Alumni

Related Links


Selected References

Wilburn KM, Mwandumba HC, Jambo KC, Boliar S, Solouki S, Russell DG, Gludish DW. Heterogeneous loss of HIV transcription and proviral DNA from 8E5/LAV lymphoblastic leukemia cells revealed by RNA FISH:FLOW analyses. Retrovirology. 2016;13(1):55. doi: 10.1186/s12977-016-0289-2. PubMed PMID: 27515378

Russell DG. The ins and outs of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis-containing vacuole. Cell Microbiol. 2016;18(8):1065-9. doi: 10.1111/cmi.12623. PubMed PMID: 27247149.

Liu Y, Tan S, Huang L, Abramovitch RB, Rohde KH, Zimmerman MD, Chen C, Dartois V, VanderVen BC, Russell DG. Immune activation of the host cell induces drug tolerance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis both in vitro and in vivo. J Exp Med. 2016;213(5):809-25. doi: 10.1084/jem.20151248. PubMed PMID: 27114608; PMCID: PMC4854729.

VanderVen BC, Fahey RJ, Lee W, Liu Y, Abramovitch RB, Memmott C, Crowe AM, Eltis LD, Perola E, Deininger DD, Wang T, Locher CP, Russell DG. Novel inhibitors of cholesterol degradation in Mycobacterium tuberculosis reveal how the bacterium's metabolism is constrained by the intracellular environment. PLoS Pathog. 2015;11(2):e1004679. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004679. PubMed PMID: 25675247; PMCID: PMC4335503.

Sukumar N, Tan S, Aldridge BB, Russell DG. Exploitation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis reporter strains to probe the impact of vaccination at sites of infection. PLoS Pathog. 2014;10(9):e1004394. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004394. PubMed PMID: 25233380; PMCID: PMC4169503.

Jambo KC, Banda DH, Kankwatira AM, Sukumar N, Allain TJ, Heyderman RS, Russell DG, Mwandumba HC. Small alveolar macrophages are infected preferentially by HIV and exhibit impaired phagocytic function. Mucosal Immunol. 2014;7(5):1116-26. doi: 10.1038/mi.2013.127. PubMed PMID: 24472847; PMCID: PMC4009066.