Central nervous system (CNS) infections can lead to high mortality and severe morbidity. Diagnosis, monitoring, and assessing response to therapy of CNS infections is particularly challenging with traditional tools, such as microbiology, due to the dangers associated with invasive CNS procedures (ie, biopsy or surgical resection) to obtain tissues. Molecular imaging techniques like positron emission tomography (PET) and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging have long been used to complement anatomic imaging such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), for in vivo evaluation of disease pathophysiology, progression, and treatment response. In this review, we detail the use of molecular imaging to delineate host-pathogen interactions, elucidate antimicrobial pharmacokinetics, and monitor treatment response. We also discuss the utility of pathogen-specific radiotracers to accurately diagnose CNS infections and strategies to develop radiotracers that would cross the blood-brain barrier.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S311-S321
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
StatePublished - Oct 1 2023


  • CNS infection
  • antimicrobial pharmacokinetics
  • blood-brain barrier
  • molecular imaging


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