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Imaging Infections

October 28, 2014

A radioactive sweetener could help doctors spot dangerous infections.




Response to antibiotic treatment: drug-resistant bacterial infection, (Alvaro and Jain et al., Science Translational Medicine, 22 October 2014)

Highlighting resistant bacteria. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It can take days for doctors to realize a patient’s infection is resistant to standard antibiotics—days that can mean the difference between life and death. Johns Hopkins medical researcher Sanjay Jain and his colleagues report in the journal Science Translational Medicine on the use of a radioactive artificial sweetener as a tracer that’s absorbed only by the infectious bacteria. In mouse models, Jain says the bacteria were easy to spot using a PET scan.

SANJAY JAIN (Johns Hopkins):

The bacteria love this new tracer that we have developed, and now this tracer is emitting energy and therefore the PET scanner can now localize where the bacterial infection is.


He says doctors treating the infection with standard antibiotics can quickly see if they’ve killed the bacteria; if not, they’ll know it’s a resistant strain, and can take immediate action. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.