from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun 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.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 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.
  • noun 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 Formerly the only means of saving life in this complication was tracheotomy, but this has been almost entirely superseded by intubation.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.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (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.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun 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.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun 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 The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[New Latin diphthēria, from French diphthérie, from Greek diphtherā, piece of hide, leather; see letter.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.


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  • Diphtheria: A gargle of sulphur and water has been used with much success in cases of diphtheria.

    Archive 2006-09-01

  • Diphtheria: A gargle of sulphur and water has been used with much success in cases of diphtheria.

    More Health Tips From the White House Cook Book

  • 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.

    DTaP: Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis Vaccine

  • 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.

    Emil von Behring - Biography

  • 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.

    Physiology or Medicine 1919 - Presentation Speech

  • 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.

    Emil von Behring - Nobel Lecture

  • Alterações anátomo-patológicas na difteria (Anatomo-pathologic changes in diphtheria), Coimbra,

    Egas Moniz - Biography

  • The immunity from diphtheria is short, and in pneumonia, although there must be a temporary immunity, future susceptibility to the disease is probably increased.

    Disease and Its Causes

  • 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.

    The Story of Germ Life


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  • Usage on el garrotillo.

    February 11, 2009

  • coined 1857 in Fr. by physician Pierre Bretonneau from Gk. diphthera "hide, leather," of unknown origin; the disease so called for the tough membrane that forms in the throat. Formerly known in England as the Boulogne sore throat, since it spread from France.

    October 1, 2009