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Improving the speed and accuracy of bacterial detection is important for patient stratification and to ensure the appropriate use of antimicrobials. To achieve this goal, the development of diagnostic techniques to recognize bacterial presence in real-time at the point-of-care is required. Optical imaging for direct identification of bacteria within the host is an attractive approach. Several attempts at chemical probe design and validation have been investigated, however none have yet been successfully translated into the clinic. Here we describe a method for ex vivo validation of bacteria-specific probes for identification of bacteria within the distal lung, imaged by fibered confocal fluorescence microscopy (FCFM). Our model used ex vivo human lung tissue and a clinically approved confocal laser endomicroscopy (CLE) platform to screen novel bacteria-specific imaging compounds, closely mimicking imaging conditions expected to be encountered with patients. Therefore, screening compounds by this technique provides confidence of potential clinical tractability.