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April 1, 1983

Corynebacterium hemolyticum Peritonsillar Abscess Mimicking Diphtheria

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Pediatrics, The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and The Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

JAMA. 1983;249(13):1757-1758. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330370067037

IT IS uncertain whether the organism Corynebacterium hemolyticum is merely one of the bacterial species that colonize the human oropharynx or is an important pathogen in upper respiratory tract infections. While the organism has long been associated with pharyngitis in young adults,1 sometimes accompanied by a maculopapular2 or scarlatiniform rash,3 it has never been thought to possess the invasive or toxigenic potential of Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Recently, however, Green and LaPeter4 reported a case of membranous pharyngitis caused by C hemolyticum in a 16-year-old girl that so strongly mimicked classic diphtheria that antitoxin was given. This report describes a case in which this organism was cultured from the exudate that was aspirated from a typical peritonsillar abscess.

Report of a Case  A 16-year-old girl was in her usual state of good general health until two weeks before admission to the hospital, when a sore throat with low-grade