Diphtheria classification

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Dima Nimri, M.D. [2]


Diphtheria can be classified according to the type of Corynebacterium that causes a specific case. It can also be divided according to the resulting clinical presentation into respiratory, systemic, or cutaneous diphtheria.


Diphtheria infection can be classified according to either the causative agent or the clinical manifestations of the infection.

Causative Agent

Diphtheria can be caused by several Corynebacterium species including:[1][2]

Clinical Manifestations

Diphtheria infection can present in any of the following ways:[4]


  1. Wong TP, Groman N (1984). "Production of diphtheria toxin by selected isolates of Corynebacterium ulcerans and Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis". Infect. Immun. 43 (3): 1114–6. PMC 264307. PMID 6321350.
  2. Moore LS, Leslie A, Meltzer M, Sandison A, Efstratiou A, Sriskandan S (2015). "Corynebacterium ulcerans cutaneous diphtheria". Lancet Infect Dis. 15 (9): 1100–7. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(15)00225-X. PMID 26189434.
  3. Efstratiou A, Engler KH, Mazurova IK, Glushkevich T, Vuopio-Varkila J, Popovic T (2000). "Current approaches to the laboratory diagnosis of diphtheria". J. Infect. Dis. 181 Suppl 1: S138–45. doi:10.1086/315552. PMID 10657205.
  4. Center for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/diphtheria/clinicians.html Accessed on Oct. 7, 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Dobie RA, Tobey DN (1979). "Clinical features of diphtheria in the respiratory tract". JAMA. 242 (20): 2197–201. PMID 490806.
  6. Lumio JT, Groundstroem KW, Melnick OB, Huhtala H, Rakhmanova AG (2004). "Electrocardiographic abnormalities in patients with diphtheria: a prospective study". Am. J. Med. 116 (2): 78–83. PMID 14715320.
  7. BOYER NH, WEINSTEIN L (1948). "Diphtheritic myocarditis". N. Engl. J. Med. 239 (24): 913–9. doi:10.1056/NEJM194812092392403. PMID 18103551.
  8. Rappold LC, Vogelgsang L, Klein S, Bode K, Enk AH, Haenssle HA (2016). "Primary cutaneous diphtheria: management, diagnostic workup, and treatment as exemplified by a rare case report". J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 14 (7): 734–6. doi:10.1111/ddg.12722. PMID 27373251.