American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. An acute infectious disease caused by the bacillus Corynebacterium diphtheriae, characterized by the production of a systemic toxin and the formation of a false membrane on the lining of the mucous membrane of the throat and other respiratory passages, causing difficulty in breathing, high fever, and weakness. The toxin is particularly harmful to the tissues of the heart and central nervous system.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. An infectious disease, characterized by the formation over the affected and inflamed parts of a firm whitish or grayish pellicle, or false membrane (which is removed with difficulty and leaves a raw surface), and by general prostration. It is not infrequently followed by more or less extended paralysis. The air-passages of the head are the most frequent seat of the diphtheritic membrane, although it may appear on other mucous surfaces and in wounds. The disease is very frequently fatal, and its ravages are extended by filth. Also
- n. Diphtheria is caused by a specific bacillus, called Bacillus diphtheriæ, or the Klebs-Loeffier bacillus, which usually can readily be detected in the exudate by microscopical methods. The search for this organism has become a routine measure in doubtful cases of inflammation of the upper air-passages, and often a positive diagnosis of such conditions can be made only in this way. The disease begins with swelling and redness of the throat, fever, and loss of strength. The false membrane appears early and may be confined to the tonsils or may spread to the mucous membrane of the nose, pharynx, or larynx. When the larynx is involved, the breathing becomes difficult, and suffocation may ensue. Formerly the only means of saving life in this complication was tracheotomy, but this has been almost entirely superseded by intubation. The disease may be followed by paralysis, by weakness of the heart, or by disease of the kidneys. Treatment, both curative and preventive, consists in the subcutaneous injection of diphtheria antitoxin — one of the earliest instances, and still the most effective instance, of serum therapy. See cut under Klebs-Loeffler *bacillus.
- n. pathology A highly infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract characterised by a sore throat, fever, and difficulty breathing, its symptoms being due to a potent toxin excreted by the infecting agent Corynebacterium diphtheriae.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Med.) A very dangerous contagious disease in which the air passages, and especially the throat, become coated with a false membrane, produced by the solidification of an inflammatory exudation. Cf. group.
- n. acute contagious infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae; marked by the formation of a false membrane in the throat and other air passages causing difficulty in breathing
- From French diphthérie, coined 1857 by Pierre Bretonneau; from Ancient Greek διφθέρα (diphthera, "prepared hide, leather"), for the tough membrane that forms in the throat. Bretonneau earlier used diphthérite, from which diphtheritis. (Wiktionary)
- New Latin diphthēria, from French diphthérie, from Greek diphtherā, piece of hide, leather; see letter. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“Diphtheria: A gargle of sulphur and water has been used with much success in cases of diphtheria.”
“Therefore, although the risk of disease and death from diphtheria is very small, the risk of severe adverse reactions or death from the diphtheria vaccine is zero.”
“Behring, however, who announced, in 1913, his production of a mixture of this kind, and subsequent work which modified and refined the mixture originally produced by Behring resulted in the modern methods of immunization which have largely banished diphtheria from the scourges of mankind.”
“It is the serum, excessively rich in diphtheria antitoxins, taken from strongly immunized horses, which is used, under the name of antidiphtheric serum, to cure to prevent diphtheria in humans, which can be a very dangerous disease.”
“I doubt whether it will ever be possible to establish artificially the antitoxic principle of serum therapy in diphtheria, without the aid of vital organization and secretion faculties.”
“Alterações anátomo-patológicas na difteria (Anatomo-pathologic changes in diphtheria), Coimbra,”
“The immunity from diphtheria is short, and in pneumonia, although there must be a temporary immunity, future susceptibility to the disease is probably increased.”
“A century ago, before childhood immunization became routine in America, the upper-respiratory infection known as diphtheria was a worse killer than cancer.”
“This substance has been isolated from the blood of animals that have recovered from an attack of diphtheria, and has been called diphtheria antitoxine.”
“Of later days we have new and different names for the disease, but alas, it kills the babe just as it did before it was called diphtheria, la grippe and so on.”
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