November 19, 2014 – Imaging Infection


Anchor lead:  A new method for imaging infections has been developed at Johns Hopkins, Elizabeth Tracey reports

CT scans and MRIs are very good at detecting certain health problems, but they really aren’t very good at diagnosing infections.  Now a new tracer developed by Sanjay Jain, an infectious disease expert, and colleagues at Johns Hopkins, may help.

Jain: We have developed a molecule, it’s a sugar, like glucose, but it’s a sugar that’s taken up only by bacteria, a specific kind of bacteria which are called enterobacteriaceae because they live in the normal gut of our body.  They are not taken up by the human cells, and so if there is a site of infection which is caused by this group of bacteria in the body, then if you inject this tracer it will get accumulated at the site of the infection, and then with positron emission tomography you can actually figure out where the infection is.    :28

Jain says that if tests in humans demonstrate that the tracer will work as it has in animal models, it could be used not just for accurate diagnosis but also for monitoring treatment.  Such a strategy could be expanded to include many more infectious agents as well.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.