PET, CT imaging to track anti-tuberculosis drugs reaching bacteria in lung cavities

How anti-tuberculosis (TB) drugs make their way into TB infectious agents, called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, found deep inside the lungs has been a long-standing mystery to the scientific community. Now, researchers developed a new way to track, over time, if an anti-TB drug actually reaches lung cavities where the bacteria call home. And the findings could reduce the treatment time for TB patients, whose treatment course could be as long as 6 months.

Incorporating both PET and CT scans, researchers noninvasively measured the effectiveness of rifampin, a key anti-TB medicine, in 12 patients with TB in the lungs. The PET scans revealed that the amount of rifampin uptake was lowest in the walls of the lung where TB lesions could be found.

Once researchers determined the dose, they then gave patients the recommended treatment dose of rifampin, and measured drug levels in the blood using a specialized analytical technique. This dose mimicked the traditional clinical dose.

While more studies are warranted, researchers say the study results hold promise for fighting TB worldwide and have implication for other infectious agents like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, was partly funded by NHLBI.

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