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ACS Infect Dis. 2018 Jul 13;4(7):1067-1072. doi: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.8b00061. Epub 2018 May 8.

[11C]Para-Aminobenzoic Acid: A Positron Emission Tomography Tracer Targeting Bacteria-Specific Metabolism.

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Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging , University of California, San Francisco , San Francisco , California 94158 , United States.
Center for Infection and Inflammation Imaging Research, Department of Pediatrics , Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine , Baltimore , Maryland 21287 , United States.
Department of Medicine , University of California, San Francisco , San Francisco , California 94158 , United States.
Department of Radiology , Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital , San Francisco , California 94110 , United States.
Department of Radiology and Medical Imaging , University of Virginia , Charlottesville , Virginia 22903 , United States.


Imaging studies are frequently used to support the clinical diagnosis of infection. These techniques include computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for structural information and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) or positron emission tomography (PET) for metabolic data. However, frequently, there is significant overlap in the imaging appearance of infectious and noninfectious entities using these tools. To address this concern, recent approaches have targeted bacteria-specific metabolic pathways. For example, radiolabeled sugars derived from sorbitol and maltose have been investigated as PET radiotracers, since these are efficiently incorporated into bacteria but are poor substrates for mammalian cells. We have previously shown that para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) is an excellent candidate for development as a bacteria-specific imaging tracer as it is rapidly accumulated by a wide range of pathogenic bacteria, including metabolically quiescent bacteria and clinical strains, but not by mammalian cells. Therefore, in this study, we developed an efficient radiosynthesis for [11C]PABA, investigated its accumulation into Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus laboratory strains in vitro, and showed that it can distinguish between infection and sterile inflammation in a murine model of acute bacterial infection.


bacteria; folate; infection; metabolism; positron emission tomography

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