an acute contagious disease caused by the bacillus Corynebacterium diphtheriae, producing fever, severe prostration, and difficulty in breathing and swallowing as the result of swelling of the throat and formation of a false membrane
from French diphthérie, coined 1857 by physician Pierre Bretonneau (1778-1862) from Greek diphthera "prepared hide, leather," of unknown origin; the disease so called for the tough membrane that forms in the throat. Bretonneau's earlier name for it was diphthérite, anglicized as diphtheritis (1826). Formerly known in England as the Boulogne sore throat, because it spread from France.
An acute infectious disease caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, and 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.
Related formsdiph′the•rit′ic (-thə-rĭt′ĭk) null null adj.
An infectious disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae and characterized by fever, swollen glands, and the formation of a membrane in the throat that prevents breathing. Infants are routinely vaccinated against diphtheria, which was once a common cause of death in children.