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Research

Imaging infections

We are working to develop molecular imaging probes as part of the cMIP project to detect hidden bacterial infections.Streptococcus

Every year, about 200,000 Canadians are admitted to hospital with severe, long-lasting fever as their main symptom.  Some are diagnosed quickly, but about 40,000 patients still do not have a diagnosis after a full week in the hospital.  This is called fever of unknown origin (FUO). Because standard diagnoses have already failed for FUO patients, final diagnosis is usually slow, averaging 19 days after admission, and >100 days after onset of the fever. Of those who do eventually get diagnosed, the most common cause is bacterial infection.  This inability to find hidden bacterial infections causes hardship for patients, delays treatment, and makes diagnosis expensive. 

Infections in medical implants (e.g., hip joints, heart valves, stents) is another problem. At present, the only definitive diagnosis for suspected infections is surgery. This is expensive, risky and potentially traumatic for the patient. A better way to diagnose suspected infections in medical implants is needed.

We have developed radioactively labelled compounds that bacteria actively scavenge from their environment. The location of the infection is revealed by detecting the radioactive labels, 68Ga or 67Ga, in the body using PET (positron emission tomography, see wiki) scans, or SPECT (single photon emission computed tomongraphy, a related visualization technique, see wiki). 

This work is being done in collaboration with the Valliant and Adronov labs. Our lab designs and tests the radiolabelled compounds, tests their uptake by bacteria in culture, and participates in in vivo imaging studies.

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  Image credit: Janice Haney Carr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention