Sub-clinical abnormalities detected by PET/MRI in household tuberculosis contacts

BMC Infect Dis. 2019 Jan 24;19(1):83. doi: 10.1186/s12879-019-3705-0.


Background: The understanding of early events following TB exposure is limited by traditional tests that rely on detection of an immune response to infection, which is delayed, or on imaging tests with low sensitivity for early disease. We investigated for evidence of lung abnormalities in heavily exposed TB contacts using PET/MRI.

Methods: 30 household contacts of 20 index patients underwent clinical assessment, IGRA testing, chest x-ray and PET/MRI scan using 18-F-FDG. MRI images were examined by a radiology/nuclear medicine dual-qualified physician using a standardised report form, while PET/MRI images were examined independently by another radiology/nuclear medicine dual-qualified physician using a similar form. Standardised uptake value (SUV) was quantified for each abnormal lesion.

Results: IGRA was positive in 40%. PET/MRI scan was abnormal in 30%, predominantly FDG uptake in hilar or mediastinal lymph nodes and lung apices. We did not identify any relationship between PET/MRI findings and degree of exposure or IGRA status.

Conclusion: PET-based imaging may provide important insights into the natural history following exposure to TB that may not be available from traditional tests of TB immune response or imaging. The clinical significance of the abnormalities is uncertain and merits further investigation in longitudinal studies.

Keywords: Exposure; MRI; PET-scan; Tuberculosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Contact Tracing
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / administration & dosage
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / transmission
  • Young Adult


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18