Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial infection that primarily affects the nose and throat. It can also affect the skin and other parts of the body. Though rare in many parts of the world due to widespread vaccination, diphtheria remains a significant public health concern in areas with low immunization coverage.


What is Diphtheria?

Diphtheria is caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The infection spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also spread by touching contaminated objects or surfaces.



The symptoms of diphtheria typically appear 2-5 days after infection and can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms include:


  • Sore throat: Often severe and accompanied by difficulty swallowing.
  • Fever: Usually mild but can become more pronounced.
  • Swollen glands: Especially in the neck, causing a “bull neck” appearance.
  • Thick gray or white coating: A pseudo-membrane forms on the tonsils, throat, and nasal passages, which can obstruct breathing.
  • Difficulty breathing: Due to the pseudo-membrane obstructing the airway.

In severe cases, diphtheria can lead to complications such as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), nerve damage, and kidney failure.


Diphtheria. Best Diagnostic Centre in Kolkata.


Causes and Transmission:

Diphtheria is caused by the toxin-producing bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The bacteria release a potent toxin that damages tissues and organs. The infection is primarily spread through:

  • Respiratory droplets: When an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • Direct contact: With an infected person’s respiratory secretions or skin lesions.
  • Contaminated objects: Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with the bacteria.


Diagnosis and Treatment:

Diagnosis involves:

  • Physical examination: Checking for characteristic signs such as the pseudomembrane in the throat.
  • Throat swab: Testing for the presence of C. diphtheriae.
  • Toxin testing: Identifying the diphtheria toxin.

Prompt treatment is crucial and typically involves:

  • Antibiotics: Such as penicillin or erythromycin to kill the bacteria.
  • Diphtheria antitoxin: To neutralize the toxin produced by the bacteria.
  • Supportive care: Including isolation to prevent the spread of the infection and treatment for complications.



The most effective way to prevent diphtheria is through vaccination. The diphtheria vaccine is often combined with vaccines for tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) and is administered as part of routine childhood immunizations. Booster shots are recommended for adults to maintain immunity.

Other preventive measures include:

  • Good hygiene practices: Regular handwashing and using tissues or elbows to cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoiding close contact: With infected individuals or those showing symptoms of respiratory infections.
  • Travel precautions: Ensuring vaccinations are up to date when traveling to areas where diphtheria is more common.

Diphtheria, though rare in many parts of the world, remains a serious and potentially life-threatening infection. Awareness, prompt treatment, and preventive measures such as vaccination are key to controlling its spread and ensuring public health. By understanding the symptoms, causes, and prevention of diphtheria, individuals can take proactive steps to protect themselves and their communities from this dangerous disease.


To consult a Doctor at Sparsh Diagnostic Centre, call 9830117733.





No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


One Reply to “Diphtheria”

  1. […] and Tdap Vaccines: Children receive the DTaP vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Adults should receive a booster shot (Tdap) every 10 […]

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