Infection of native tissues or implanted devices is common, but clinical diagnosis is frequently difficult and currently available noninvasive tests perform poorly. Immunocompromised individuals (for example transplant recipients, or those with cancer) are at increased risk. No imaging test in clinical use can specifically identify infection, or accurately differentiate bacterial from fungal infections. Commonly used [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose (18FDG) positron emission computed tomography (PET/CT) is sensitive for infection, but limited by poor specificity because increased glucose uptake may also indicate inflammation or malignancy. Furthermore, this tracer provides no indication of the type of infective agent (bacterial, fungal, or parasitic). Imaging tools that directly and specifically target microbial pathogens are highly desirable to improve non-invasive infection diagnosis and localization. A growing field of research is exploring the utility of radiometals and their chelators (siderophores), which are small molecules that bind radiometals and form a stable complex allowing sequestration by microbes. This radiometal-chelator complex can be directed to a specific microbial target in vivo, facilitating anatomical localization by PET or single photon emission computed tomography. Additionally, bifunctional chelators can further conjugate therapeutic molecules (e.g., peptides, antibiotics, antibodies) while still bound to desired radiometals, combining specific imaging with highly targeted antimicrobial therapy. These novel therapeutics may prove a useful complement to the armamentarium in the global fight against antimicrobial resistance. This review will highlight current state of infection imaging diagnostics and their limitations, strategies to develop infection-specific diagnostics, recent advances in radiometal-based chelators for microbial infection imaging, challenges, and future directions to improve targeted diagnostics and/or therapeutics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Nuclear Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2023


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