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Corynebacterium diphtheriae

Corynebacterium diphtheriae is a topic covered in the Johns Hopkins ABX Guide.

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  • Pleomorphic Gram-positive bacillus that is club-shaped, appears like Chinese characters on Gram stain [Fig].
    • Facultative anaerobe.
    • Humans are only known hosts.
  • Diphtheria caused only by exotoxin-producing strains of C. diphtheriae.
  • Three Corynebacterium strains may produce diphtheria toxin:
    • C. diphtheriae (epidemic diphtheria w/ person-person spread)
    • C. ulcerans
    • C. pseudotuberculosis 
    • Both C. ulcerans and C. pseudotuberculosis are less common and associated with farm/dairy contacts.
  • Virulent C. diphtheria strains carry a bacteriophage with the diphtheria toxin gene. Without this bacteriophage, the microbe is unable to cause serious disease.
  • Culture best performed on tellurite-selective media, e.g., Tinsdale agar.
  • Confirmation of toxin production by demonstration of an immunoprecipitin band done at CDC.

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Last updated: May 29, 2016


Auwaerter, Paul. "Corynebacterium Diphtheriae." Johns Hopkins ABX Guide, The Johns Hopkins University, 2016. Pediatrics Central, peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX_Guide/540144/all/Corynebacterium_diphtheriae.
Auwaerter P. Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Johns Hopkins ABX Guide. The Johns Hopkins University; 2016. https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX_Guide/540144/all/Corynebacterium_diphtheriae. Accessed April 23, 2019.
Auwaerter, P. (2016). Corynebacterium diphtheriae. In Johns Hopkins ABX Guide. Available from https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX_Guide/540144/all/Corynebacterium_diphtheriae
Auwaerter P. Corynebacterium Diphtheriae [Internet]. In: Johns Hopkins ABX Guide. The Johns Hopkins University; 2016. [cited 2019 April 23]. Available from: https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX_Guide/540144/all/Corynebacterium_diphtheriae.
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TY - ELEC T1 - Corynebacterium diphtheriae ID - 540144 A1 - Auwaerter,Paul,M.D. Y1 - 2016/05/29/ BT - Johns Hopkins ABX Guide UR - https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX_Guide/540144/all/Corynebacterium_diphtheriae PB - The Johns Hopkins University DB - Pediatrics Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -