Theranostics 2019; 9(11):3223-3248. doi:10.7150/thno.31844 This issue


AIE-based theranostic systems for detection and killing of pathogens

Xuewen He1,3#, Ling-Hong Xiong2#, Zheng Zhao1,3, Zaiyu Wang1,3, Liang Luo4, Jacky Wing Yip Lam1,3, Ryan Tsz Kin Kwok1,3✉, Ben Zhong Tang1,3,5✉

1. Department of Chemistry, Hong Kong Branch of Chinese National Engineering Research Centre for Tissue Restoration and Reconstruction, Institute for Advanced Study and Division of Life Science, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
2. Shenzhen Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Shenzhen 518055, China
3. HKUST-Shenzhen Research Institute, Shenzhen 518057, China
4. National Engineering Research Center for Nanomedicine, College of Life Science and Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430074, China
5. NSFC Center for Luminescence from Molecular Aggregates, SCUT-HKUST Joint Research Laboratory, State Key Laboratory of Luminescent Materials and Devices, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou 510640, China
#These authors contribute equally.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
He X, Xiong LH, Zhao Z, Wang Z, Luo L, Lam JWY, Kwok RTK, Tang BZ. AIE-based theranostic systems for detection and killing of pathogens. Theranostics 2019; 9(11):3223-3248. doi:10.7150/thno.31844. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Pathogenic bacteria, fungi and viruses pose serious threats to the human health under appropriate conditions. There are many rapid and sensitive approaches have been developed for identification and quantification of specific pathogens, but many challenges still exist. Culture/colony counting and polymerase chain reaction are the classical methods used for pathogen detection, but their operations are time-consuming and laborious. On the other hand, the emergence and rapid spread of multidrug-resistant pathogens is another global threat. It is thus of utmost urgency to develop new therapeutic agents or strategies. Luminogens with aggregation-induced emission (AIEgens) and their derived supramolecular systems with unique optical properties have been developed as fluorescent probes for turn-on sensing of pathogens with high sensitivity and specificity. In addition, AIE-based supramolecular nanostructures exhibit excellent photodynamic inactivation (PDI) activity in aggregate, offering great potential for not only light-up diagnosis of pathogen, but also image-guided PDI therapy for pathogenic infection.