Chen, Robert T. Infant Immunization Section, Centers for Disease Control, Surveillance Investigations and Research Branch, Atlanta, Georgia.
Vitek, Charles HIV Vaccine Section, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.
Last reviewed:March 2021
- Etiologic agent
- Signs and symptoms
- Related Primary Literature
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An acute infectious disease of humans caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Diphtheria is a contagious and potentially life-threatening infectious disease. The causative agent is the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae (see illustration). Classically, diphtheria is characterized by low-grade fever, sore throat, and a pseudomembrane covering the tonsils and pharynx. Complications, such as inflammation of the heart, paralysis, and even death, may occur as a result of exotoxins elaborated by toxigenic strains of the bacteria. See also: Bacteria; Fever; Infectious disease; Medical bacteriology; Toxicology; Toxin
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