Diphtheria is an acute infectious disease caused by the toxin-producing bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It usually affects the respiratory tract (primarily the larynx, tonsils and throat). It may also affect the skin, and the toxin produced by this bacteria can damage the nerves and heart. The disease is now rare in many parts of the world because of widespread immunization.
Review Date 4/5/2013
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.