2'-Fluoro-5-methyl-l-beta-D-arabinosyluracil (FMAU) labeled with carbon-14 was used to image herpes simplex virus type 1-infected regions of rat brain by quantitative autoradiography. FMAU is a potent antiviral pyrimidine nucleoside which is selectively phosphorylated by virus-coded thymidine kinase. When the labeled FMAU was administered 6 hours before the rats were killed, the selective uptake and concentration of the drug and its metabolites by infected cells (defined by immunoperoxidase staining of viral antigens) allowed quantitative definition and mapping of HSV-1-infected structures in autoradiograms of brain sections. These results show that quantitative autoradiography can be used to characterize the local metabolism of antiviral drugs by infected cells in vivo. They also suggest that the selective uptake of drugs that exploit viral thymidine kinase for their antiviral effect can, by appropriate labeling, be used in conjunction with clinical neuroimaging techniques to define infected regions of human brain, thereby providing a new approach to the diagnosis of herpes encephalitis in man.