Molecular detection of Corynebacterium diphtheriae is used for laboratory confirmation of the bacterium when there are symptoms of C. diphtheriae infection or screening for asymptomatic carriage.
The test is intended for the detection of DNA and differentiation of toxigenic and nontoxigenic strains of C. diphtheriae.
Corynebacterium diphtheriae is a bacterium responsible for causing the infectious disease known as diphtheria. Corynebacterium diphtheriae is a Gram-positive, non-spore-forming bacterium that appears as rods under a microscope. It is pleomorphic, meaning it can take on different shapes, including club-shaped or V-shaped forms. The bacterium produces toxins, specifically diphtheria toxin, which is responsible for the severe symptoms associated with the disease.
Transmission: Diphtheria is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also spread by direct contact with open skin sores or contaminated objects. People who are carriers of the bacterium but do not exhibit symptoms can also transmit the disease.
Symptoms: Symptoms of diphtheria can vary depending on the site of infection. The disease commonly affects the throat and upper respiratory tract, leading to symptoms such as sore throat, low-grade fever, and swollen lymph nodes. A grayish membrane may form in the throat, which can obstruct breathing. In severe cases, the toxin produced by C. diphtheriae can cause damage to the heart, kidneys, and nervous system.
Diagnosis: The diagnosis of diphtheria involves several methods, such as taking a pharyngeal swab and microbiological culture to identify C. diphtheriae. Alternatively, for faster and more accurate results, molecular testing with PCR is used.
Treatment: Prompt treatment is essential to manage diphtheria effectively. The primary treatment involves administering antitoxin, which neutralizes the diphtheria toxin already present in the body. Antibiotics, such as erythromycin or penicillin, are used to eliminate the bacteria. Supportive care, including adequate hydration, respiratory support, and monitoring of vital signs, is also crucial.
Prevention: Prevention of diphtheria mainly involves vaccination. The diphtheria toxoid is included as a component of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine or the diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine, which is routinely administered to children. Booster doses are recommended in adolescence and adulthood. Maintaining good hygiene practices, such as covering the mouth while coughing or sneezing and proper handwashing, can also help prevent transmission.
While diphtheria is now relatively rare in many countries due to widespread vaccination programs, it still poses a risk in areas with low immunization rates or during outbreaks.