Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research
  Home About us Editorial board Search Ahead of print Current issue Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login  
  Home Print this page Email this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size Users Online: 497       

   Table of Contents      
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 142  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 459-461

Persistence of Corynebacterium diphtheriae in Delhi & National Capital Region (NCR)

1 Department of Microbiology, National Centre for Disease Control, Delhi, India
2 Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) Laboratory, National Centre for Disease Control, Delhi, India

Date of Submission02-Feb-2015
Date of Acceptance09-Nov-2015
Date of Web Publication10-Nov-2015

Correspondence Address:
S Bhagat
Department of Microbiology, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 22 Sham Nath Marg, Civil Lines, Delhi 110 054
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-5916.169212

Rights and Permissions

Despite the introduction of mass immunization, diphtheria continues to play a major role as a potentially lethal infectious disease in many countries. Delay in the specific therapy of diphtheria may result in death and, therefore, accurate diagnosis of diphtheria is imperative. This study was carried out at National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi, India, on samples of suspected diphtheria cases referred from various government hospitals of Delhi and neighbouring areas during 2012-2014. Primary identification of Corynebacterium diphtheriae was done by standard culture, staining and biochemical tests followed by toxigenicity testing by Elek's test on samples positive for C. diphtheriae. The results showed persistence of toxigenic C. diphtheriae in our community indicating the possibility of inadequate immunization coverage.

Keywords: Corynebacterium diphtheriae - diphtheria toxin - Elek′s test

How to cite this article:
Bhagat S, Grover S S, Gupta N, Roy R D, Khare S. Persistence of Corynebacterium diphtheriae in Delhi & National Capital Region (NCR). Indian J Med Res 2015;142:459-61

How to cite this URL:
Bhagat S, Grover S S, Gupta N, Roy R D, Khare S. Persistence of Corynebacterium diphtheriae in Delhi & National Capital Region (NCR). Indian J Med Res [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Oct 21];142:459-61. Available from:

Diphtheria is an infectious disease caused by the exotoxin produced by Corynebacterium diphtheriae[1]. Despite the success of mass immunization in many countries worldwide, diphtheria continues to play a major role as a lethal resurgent infectious disease. An accurate microbiological diagnosis of diphtheria is crucial and is always regarded as being complementary to clinical diagnosis, because diphtheria is often confused with other conditions, such as severe streptococcal sore throat, Vincent"s angina, or glandular fever [2] . Detection of the lethal and potent exotoxin produced by the causative organism is considered to be the definitive test for the diagnosis of toxigenic

C. diphtheriae. Early diagnosis and timely intervention not only help to reduce the incidence of the disease but also in containing the infection in the community and decreasing morbidity and mortality in the affected individuals. The inadequacy of microbiological facilities for rapid diagnosis of diphtheria cases has been realized by many workers [3],[4] .The present study was aimed to perform the primary identification of

C. diphtheriae from suspected cases of diphtheria in and around Delhi, and to determine their toxin producing activity.

A total of 941 throat and/or nasal swab samples from clinically suspected cases of C. diphtheriae were received from various government hospitals of Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) at the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi, India, from January 2012 to December 2014. All these samples were accompanied with duly filled proforma having the demographic details of the patients. Amie's charcoal medium (Becton-Dickinson, USA) was provided to all the centers for transportation of the samples. The samples were transported in cold chain. Blood agar and Hoyle's tellurite medium (Oxoid, UK), both supplemented with five per cent sheep blood were used for cultivation of the bacteria. Identification of

C. diphtheriae was done by standard methods. In vitro toxin production was determined in 68 cultures positive C. diphtheriae isolates by Elek's gel precipitation test using Elek's test medium prepared according to the protocol [5] and anti-diphtheritic serum was procured from Central Research Institute, Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Of the 941 samples received, 218 (23.2%) were tested to be positive by culture for C. diphtheriae [Table 1]. The percentage positivity of diphtheria cases in 2012, 2013 and 2014 were as 26.1, 30.6 and 17 per cent, respectively. The highest numbers of cases were obtained from Haryana (35%) followed by Uttar Pradesh (30%), Delhi (17%), Rajasthan (15%) and others (3%) during the study period. Majority of the samples were obtained from the rural areas of the respective States. Age-wise distribution of samples was (0-1 yr) 2.3 per cent, (>1-5 yr) 56 per cent, (>5-10 yr) 26.6 per cent and (>10 yr) 15.1 per cent. Maximum number of cases was found in the age group 1-5 yr. Of the 218 samples positive for C. diphtheriae, toxigenicity testing by Elek's test was done in randomly selected 68 positive samples, of which 60 (88.2 %) were positive for toxin production. The seasonal distribution of the disease showed that maximum numbers of the cases were reported in the month of September and October.
Table 1. Positivity of suspected cases of C. diphtheriae samples over three years period (January 2012 to December 2014)

Click here to view

Our study highlights the persistence of diphtheria in Delhi and NCR from 2012 to 2014. Various States of India have reported the persistence and resurgence of diphtheria [6],[7] . In 1980, the cases of diphtheria reported were 39,231 which were reduced to 2817 in 1997. However, the past two decades have again seen a sudden increase in diphtheria cases with more than 8000 cases reported in 2004 [1] . According to WHO UNICEF 2012 [8] estimates, the primary immunization coverage for diphtheria has remained between 56 to 72 per cent [8] . The DPT 3 (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus) coverage during 2002-2013 was 58-72 per cent and DPT booster dose 41.4 per cent according to National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) [9] . This re-emergence of diphtheria in the country seems mainly due to low coverage of primary immunization as well as boosters doses [1] . The National Health Profiles released by the Government of India reported 3812, 3977, 3529, 3123, 3485 and 3902 cases of diphtheria, respectively from 2007 to 2012. Recent report of National Health Profiles released by the government of India in 2013 showed that the number of reported cases of diphtheria in Delhi was 349 in 2009 and 150 during 2013 [10] . The reason for such persistence could be failure of Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) to achieve satisfactory vaccine coverage in their respective regions [11] . Toxigenicity was found in 88.2 per cent (60/68) isolates in the present study. Toxigenicity testing has been considered an important criterion for notifying C. diphtheriae infections. Ayyagari et al[12] reported about 70 per cent isolates of C. diphtheriae from respiratory tract to be toxigenic (1972-1974). Similarly, some other workers have reported 75.5 to 100 per cent toxigenicity in their study [13] .

Diphtheria mainly affects children aged between 1 to 5 yr, however, due to good vaccine coverage worldwide, a shift in age incidence has been observed from preschool to school age (5-15 yr) with more and more cases now being reported in adults [3] . In our study, maximum cases were seen in the age group 1-5 yr raising the possibility of poor vaccination coverage. Further, most of the cases were found in rural areas of neighbouring StatesStates of Delhi. The reason for this could be logistic problems like insufficient supply of vaccines, poor clinic organization, non-availability of immunization services on all days of the week and inadequate screening for immunization status of children visiting the health facility. Low awareness among care givers about utility of vaccination, vaccination schedules and vaccine preventable diseases could be another contributory factor leading to poor immunization [14] . Additional factors that prevent completion of vaccination include ignorance about total doses required, no/improper counselling about next vaccination visit, loss of vaccination cards with incorrect recall about the child's immunization status and vaccine side effects [14] .

The present study demonstrated the presence of toxigenic strains of C. diphtheriae among a substantial percentage of a bacteriologically confirmed cases of diphtheria. There is a need for continued surveillance for diphtheria in this part of the country and review the efficacy of immunization programme in the country.

   Acknowledgment Top

Authors acknowledge the Director, Central Research Institute, Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh for providing diphtheria antitoxin serum for Elek's test.

   References Top

Dikid T, Jain SK, Sharma A, Kumar A, Narain JP. Emerging & re-emerging infections in India: an overview. Indian J Med Res 2013; 138 : 19-31.  Back to cited text no. 1
Efstratiou A, Engler KH, Mazurova IK, Glushkevich T, Vuopio-Varkila J, Popovic, T. Current approaches to the laboratory diagnosis of diphtheria. J Infect Dis 2000; 181 : S138-45.  Back to cited text no. 2
Singhal T, Lodha R, Kapil A, Jain Y, Kabra SK. Diphtheria- down but not out. Indian Pediatr 2000; 37 : 728-38.  Back to cited text no. 3
Jayashree M, Shruthi N, Singhi S. Predictors of outcome in patients with diphtheria receiving intensive care. Indian Pediatr 2006; 43 : 155-60.  Back to cited text no. 4
Corynebacterium. In: Collee JG, Duguid JP, Fraser AG, Marmion BP, editors. Mackie & McCartney practical medical microbiology, 13 th ed. Chichester: Churchill Livingstone; 1989. p. 374-86.  Back to cited text no. 5
Sharma NC, Banavaliker JN, Ranjan R, Kumar R. Bacteriological & epidemiological characteristics of diphtheria cases in & around Delhi - a retrospective study. Indian J Med Res 2007; 126 : 545-52.   Back to cited text no. 6
Khan N, Shastri J, Aigal U, Doctor B. Resurgence of diphtheria in the vaccination era. Indian J Med Microbiol 2007; 25 : 434-7.   Back to cited text no. 7
World Health Organization. Global health observatory data repository. Available from: ghodata/? vid=80201#, accessed on July 29, 2012.  Back to cited text no. 8
International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) and Macro International. National family health survey-3 (NFHS- 3), 2005-06. Mumbai, India: IIPS; 2007.  Back to cited text no. 9
Central Bureau of Health Intelligence, Directorate General of Health Services. Available from:, accessed on June 26, 2013.  Back to cited text no. 10
Bitragunta S, Murhekar MV, Hutin YJ, Penumur PP, Gupte MD. Persistence of diphtheria, Hyderabad, India, 2003-2006. Emerg Infect Dis 2008; 14 : 1144-6.   Back to cited text no. 11
Ayyagari A, Venugopalan A, Ray SN. Studies on diphtheria infection in and around Delhi (a bacteriological study from faucial and cutaneous lesions). J Indian Med Assoc 1975; 65 : 328-31.  Back to cited text no. 12
Marston CK, Jamieson F, Cahoon F, Lesiak G, Golaz A, Reeves M, et al. Persistence of a distinct Corynebacterium diphtheriae clonal group within two communities in the United States and Canada where diphtheria is endemic. J Clin Microbiol 2001; 39 : 1586-90.   Back to cited text no. 13
Saxena S, Jais M, Dutta R, Dutta AK. Serological immunity to diphtheria and tetanus in healthy adults in Delhi, India. Trop Doct 2009; 39 : 160-3.  Back to cited text no. 14


  [Table 1]

This article has been cited by
1 Epidemiology of Diphtheria in India, 19962016: Implications for Prevention and Control
Manoj Murhekar
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 2017; 97(2): 313
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Potency of a human monoclonal antibody to diphtheria toxin relative to equine diphtheria anti-toxin in a guinea pig intoxication model
Heidi L. Smith,Peter Cheslock,Mark Leney,Bruce Barton,Deborah C. Molrine
Virulence. 2016; : 1
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article
    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded365    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 2    

Recommend this journal