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Incidence Of Diphtheria, Diphtheria Toxin, Symptoms, Treatment, Vaccine

Diphtheria is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diptheriae. Usually, the bacteria initially infect the throat and pharynx. During the course of the infection, a membrane-like growth appearing on the throat can obstruct breathing. Some strains of this bacterium release a toxin, a substance that acts as a poison in the body. This toxin, when released into the bloodstream, travels to other organs of the body and can cause severe damage.

Diphtheria was first formally described as a disease in 1826. In 1888, Corynebacterium diptheriae was identified as the cause of the disease. A few years later, researchers discovered the antitoxin, or antidote, to the diphtheria toxin. If the antitoxin is given to a person with diphtheria in the early stages of the infection, the antitoxin neutralizes the toxin. This treatment, along with an aggressive vaccination program, has virtually eliminated the disease in the United States. Other countries that do not have an aggressive vaccination program, have numerous cases of diphtheria, many of which end in death.

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