Diphtheria: Learn About This Life Taking Disease

Tanuja Bisht

, Health A2Z

Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection that affects the mucous membrane of the throat and nose. Although it can easily be passed from person to person, the disease can be prevented by using vaccines.


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You should immediately visit a doctor if you diagnosed with this disease. Without treatment, it can cause serious damage to the kidneys, nervous system and heart.




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What Is Diphtheria?


It is an infectious disease caused by the bacterial species Corynebacterium, most commonly associated with a sore throat, fever and the development of an adherent membrane in the tonsils and/or the nasopharynx. Heavy infections can affect other organ systems such as the heart and the nervous system. In addition, some patients with diphtheria may also have skin infections. The exotoxin produced by the bacteria is an important element in the cause of the more serious symptoms of the disease.




What are the Symptoms of Diphtheria?


There are several symptoms of this disease which is similar to a viral upper respiratory infection including;



  • A sore throat


  • Fever


  • Weakness


  • Difficulty swallowing


  • Hoarseness



  • Enlarged lymph nodes producing a thick neck


  • Difficulty in breathing



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What are the Causes of Diphtheria?



It is an infectious disease produced by the bacterial microorganism Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Other Corynebacterium species can also be responsible for the disease, but this is rare.


It is an infection that spread only among humans. It spreads by direct physical contact with:



  • Droplets that breathed out into the air


  • Secretions from the throat and nose like saliva and mucus.


  • Through infected skin lesions




What is the Treatment for Diphtheria?


There are two treatment strategies for patients with diphtheria. Both are most effective when used in the early stages of the disease. The first treatment is antibiotics. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends erythromycin as a first-line treatment in patients over 6 months of age.


In patients who are younger or cannot take erythromycin, the CDC recommends penicillin intramuscularly. Patients are usually non-infectious after about 48 hours of antibiotic treatment and must remain isolated until then to prevent the spread of the disease.


The second treatment is the administration of diphtheria antitoxin. This antitoxin is only available from the CDC. Diphtheria antitoxin reduces the progression of the disease by binding to diphtheria toxin, which has not yet adhered to the body’s cells. Antitoxin comes from horses, so recipients should not be treated if they are allergic. Your doctor will decide if you only need antibiotics or antitoxins, depending on your symptoms, vaccination status and course of the disease.







Well, the disease of diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection affecting the mucous membrane of the throat and nose. Antibiotics and antitoxin help in treating this disease.


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