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Rev Med Interne. 1999 Jan;20(1):39-49.

[Diphtheria and infections caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae in 1997].

[Article in French]

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  • 1Service des maladies infectieuses et tropicales, CHI, Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, France.



Diphtheria is a reemerging disease. Two epidemics recently occurred in Algeria and Independent States Community, not so far from Europe. Imported cases were diagnosed in contiguous European countries. This review focuses on the data obtained from these epidemics, with particular emphasis on new clinical forms of Corynebacterium diphtheriae infections. CURRENTS KNOWLEDGE AND KEY POINTS: Sore throat with membranes is no longer the only clinical feature of diphtheria. However, patients' management is identical, with combination of antibiotics, injection of specific antisera, and immunization of patients' close contacts and relatives. French and American sero-epidemiological studies showed that antibody levels does not provide protection, particularly in the elderly. Adult populations would therefore be at risk every 10 years. Recent advances in molecular biology led to the development of gene amplification with polymerase chain reaction, that may be used for the detection of the toxin gene. They also promoted epidemiological surveys of circulating strains via ribotyping. Although this technic evidenced predominant strains in the various countries, genotypes encountered during an epidemics may differ. Besides diphtheria which has apparently been eradicated in France, systemic infections with non-toxigenic strains of C diphtheriae, such as endocarditis, septicemia and arthritis, are evenly diagnosed.


A French national reference center for C diphtheriae has been recently created. This center collects most of the strains isolated in France, clinical data and assesses the toxigenicity of bacteria, allowing strict epidemiological survey.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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