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Clinical and molecular study of Corynebacterium diphtheriae systemic infections in France. Coryne Study Group.

  • Patey, O
  • Bimet, F
  • Riegel, P
  • Halioua, B
  • Emond, J P
  • Estrangin, E
  • Dellion, S
  • Alonso, J M
  • Kiredjian, M
  • Dublanchet, A
  • Lafaix, C
Published Article
Journal of clinical microbiology
Publication Date
Feb 01, 1997
PMID: 9003612


Diphtheria is a disease with a long history that almost completely disappeared from developed countries. In addition, until 1987, systemic infections involving Corynebacterium diphtheriae were rare. However, in 1990, an epidemic occurred in Russia. These two circumstances have provided the stimulus to gain insight into the situation in France. In fact, between 1987 and 1993, a total of 59 C. diphtheriae strains were isolated. Epidemiological data were collected for patients from whom 40 strains were isolated from normally sterile sites, including 34 from blood cultures, and half of the bacteremic patients developed endocarditis. Osteoarticular involvement was noted in 11 of these 40 patients, including 5 bacteremic patients. The fatality rate following bacteremia was 36%, despite specific antibiotic treatment (beta-lactams and aminoglycosides). The mean age of the participants was 38 years, with half of the patients subsisting under low socioeconomic conditions and suffering from homelessness or alcoholism. Apparently, the skin turned out to be the major route of transmission in this reemerging disease. Eighty-eight percent of the isolates belonged to the C. diphtheriae biotype mitis. These were found predominantly in the Paris area, and most were of the same ribotype. Those isolates originating from the overseas territories (Guyana and New Caledonia) belonged to C. diphtheriae biotype gravis. No strains were positive for the tox gene by PCR. This study attests to the persistent circulation in France of C. diphtheriae in the form of systemic infections. The matter is especially significant since these strains are nontoxigenic and are of a unique ribotype. The strains are, however, sensitive to most antibiotics, although 20% are rifampin resistant.

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