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Rev Infect Dis. 1991 Jan-Feb;13(1):73-6.

Necrotizing tracheitis caused by Corynebacterium pseudodiphtheriticum: unique case and review.

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Medical Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Portland, Oregon 97207.


The occasional pathogenicity of nondiphtheria corynebacteria in both immunocompetent and immunocompromised individuals is now well established. Previously described sites of infection include heart valves, wounds, urinary tract, and lungs. This report of necrotizing tracheitis caused by Corynebacterium pseudodiphtheriticum illustrates the widening spectrum of infections caused by these organisms. A 54-year-old man developed respiratory distress and symptoms of upper airway obstruction unresponsive to inhaled bronchodilators, systemic corticosteroids, or intravenous erythromycin. A spirometry flow-volume loop demonstrated fixed upper airway obstruction. Fiberoptic bronchoscopic examination revealed a circumferential inflammatory process partially occluding the tracheal lumen. Gram staining revealed gram-positive rods typical of corynebacteria, and cultures of tracheal tissue yielded C. pseudodiphtheriticum resistant to erythromycin and clindamycin. There was no clinical or laboratory evidence for exotoxin or cell-associated toxins. Treatment with intravenous penicillin resulted in resolution of the inflammatory process and eradication of the organisms, as assessed by subsequent cultures.

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