Resurgence of diphtheria: clinical profile and outcome in a tertiary care hospital of South India

Ananya U. Shetty, Vinod Chavan, Mahantesh Matti, Vijay Kulkarni


Background: Diphtheria is a potentially fatal acute disease caused by Corynebacterium diphtheria. It was one of the leading causes of mortality in the pre vaccination era. This study is an attempt to highlight the clinical profile, outcome and demographic characteristics, immunization status of pediatric diphtheria cases in South India. Objective of the study was to analyze the clinical profile, immunization status and outcome in children with diphtheria admitted to the PICU in a tertiary care hospital.

Methods: This retrospective study was conducted in a tertiary care hospital in South India. The case records of all children admitted to the hospital between January 1st, 2014 to December 31st, 2018 with clinically suspected diphtheria were analyzed. The data was analyzed with respect to clinical features, demographic characteristics, immunization status, complications and outcome using appropriate statistical methods.

Results: 18 cases were clinically suspected to have diphtheria. The average age of children presenting with diphtheria was 9 years. Out of the 18 cases, 11 were male, 7 were female. 16 out of 18 cases were from rural areas, whereas only 2 cases were from urban areas. Fever, sore throat and dysphagia were the presenting complaints in all cases. Neck swelling, white patch over tonsil and tender cervical lymphadenopathy were the other findings noted. Out of 18 cases, 7 were completely immunized, 8 were incompletely immunized and 3 were not immunized. Antidiphtheritic serum was given in 14 cases. Myocarditis, airway compromise and neurological deficits were the complications noted. Case fatality rate was 50%.

Conclusions: Diphtheria still remains a major public health problem in developing countries like India. Mortality and morbidity due to diphtheria continues to be high despite ready availability of vaccines and antitoxin. Childhood immunization program, especially follow up and administration of booster doses must be prioritized.


Diphtheria, Immunization, Myocarditis, Neurological deficits, Outcome

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