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Cornynebacterium diptheriae
Incubation; 2-5 days


Droplet spread – from nasopharynx of case or carrier.


  • Death rate is 10%(higher in children under 5 and adults over 40).
  • Immunity (natural/vaccine-induced) does not prevent carriage.
  • Up to 5% healthy population in endemic areas test positive from pharyngeal cultures.
  • Largely been eradicated in the developed countries through vaccination programmes.


Organism usually infects the epithelium of the skin and the mucosa of the upper respiratory tract (classically tonsils and pharynx)
  • inflammation of tissues
  • Bacteria secrete exotoxin which interferes with cell protein synthesis(àtissue necrosis) and call interfere with local neurological supply of palate and hypopharynx(àparalysis)
  • build-up of inflammatory cells, necrotic epithelial cells, and bacteria debrisà form the characteristic adherent gray/black, tough, fiber-like covering( pseudomembrane).
  • Inflammation, pseudomembrane formation and paralysis can combine to result in Airway obstruction
  • systemic spread of the toxin in the bloodstream  can injure  the kidneys, heart, and brain.

[image from Illnois Department of Public Health, courtesy of US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control]


Culture from throat or nasal swabs (toxin studies must be performed)
**do not delay treatment to wait for diagnosis


Cardiac monitor


DTP (diphtheriapertussistetanus) vaccination is recommended for all school-age children.


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