Current approaches to the laboratory diagnosis of diphtheria

J Infect Dis. 2000 Feb;181 Suppl 1:S138-45. doi: 10.1086/315552.


Despite the success of mass immunization in many countries, diphtheria continues to play a major role as a potentially lethal resurgent infectious disease. Early, accurate diagnosis is imperative since delay in specific therapy may result in death. The microbiologic diagnosis of the disease, the identification of contacts and carriers, and the appropriate clinical management of these patients are therefore crucial. The epidemiology of diseases caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae has changed dramatically over the decades, a situation that is highlighted by the resurgence of infections in the European region. These factors have strengthened the need for laboratories to screen for C. diphtheriae. Many modified and new methodologies are now used widely within laboratories for diphtheria diagnosis. Recent developments have focused upon methods for detection of the lethal and potent exotoxin produced by the causative organism, C. diphtheriae; this detection is the definitive test for the microbiologic diagnosis of diphtheria.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriological Techniques
  • Corynebacterium diphtheriae / immunology
  • Corynebacterium diphtheriae / isolation & purification
  • Diphtheria / diagnosis*
  • Diphtheria / microbiology
  • Diphtheria Toxin / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Serologic Tests


  • Diphtheria Toxin