Diphtheria - what is it?

Diphtheria – what is it?

Diphtheria is an acute infectious disease caused by diphtheria bacteria, transmitted mainly by airborne droplets, characterized by inflammation, most often of the mucous membranes of the oropharynx and nasopharynx, as well as phenomena of general intoxication, damage to the cardiovascular, nervous and excretory systems.

The causative agent of diphtheria is a toxigenic strain of the diphtheria microbe. It looks like a stick with thickening at the ends. Microbes are arranged in the form of the letter V. They secrete dangerous poisons – exotoxin and neuraminidase. In addition, they break down cystine and ferment glucose, and are able to reduce nitrates to nitrites.

Due to the ability of microorganisms to ferment starch, the disease was divided into three clinical forms: the first is light, in which starch is not fermented, the second is medium, intermediate, and the third is heavy, with the ability to ferment starch. But in essence, such a relationship does not exist at all. Only the largest microorganism can produce toxins.

The causative agent of diphtheria

Diphtheria - what is it?

Why does diphtheria develop, and what is it? The incubation period for diphtheria ranges from 3 to 7 days. The manifestations of diphtheria are diverse and depend on the localization of the process and its severity.

The source of infection is humans. The transmission of the pathogen is carried out mainly by airborne droplets, but infection is also possible by contact-household (through infected objects). For diphtheria, autumn-winter seasonality is characteristic. In modern conditions, when mostly adults are sick, diphtheria occurs throughout the year.

The causative agent of diphtheria is a diphtheria bacillus, the carrier of which is a sick person or a person who carries an infection during the incubation period of a diphtheria bacillus, as well as for some time after recovery.


Diphtheria - what is it?

It can be difficult to diagnose diphtheria, because the symptoms are similar to a number of other diseases – angina, stomatitis, etc. In order to accurately establish a diagnosis and prescribe proper treatment, laboratory tests are necessary:

  • Bacteriological (swab from the oropharynx). Using this method, the pathogen is isolated and its toxic properties are established;
  • Serological. Ig G and M are determined, indicating the intensity of the immune system, which speaks of the severity of the ongoing inflammatory process;
  • The PCR method is used to identify the DNA of the pathogen.

It also requires a diagnosis of complications caused by diphtheria.


Non-specific prevention consists in observing the following rules:

  • Timely identify and isolate patients and carriers of bacteria.
  • Carry out routine and final disinfection.
  • Examine all persons in contact with the patient once.
  • Monitor patients with angina for three days.
  • Conduct an annual medical examination of students.
  • Monitor diphtheria convalescents for 3 months after discharge from the infectious diseases department.