An acute bacterial infection caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, which is spread through droplet infection and mainly occurs in the nasopharynx. The bacteria produce a toxin which is responsible for the systemic effects. Incubation period is 2-7 days.

  • Pseudomembranous tonsillitis (grey, tough and very stickly membranes) with dysphagia, cervical adenitis, at times progressing to massive swelling of the neck
  • Airway obstruction and possible suffocation when infection extends to the nasal passages, larynx, trachea and bronchi
  • Low grade fever
  • Effects of the toxin: cardiac dysfunction (myocarditis with heart failure), neuropathies 1-3 months after the onset affecting swallowing, vision, breathing and ambulation
  • Renal failure

Culture from throat swab


Toxin of Corynebacterium diphtheriae