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Corynebacterium is a genus of Gram-positive, facultatively anaerobic, non-motile, non-

sporulated, rod-shaped actinobacteria. Most do not cause disease, but are part of normal
human skin flora.

Some nondiphtheria species of Corynebacterium produce disease in specific animal

species, and some of these are also human pathogens. Some species attack healthy hosts,
and others attack immunosuppressed hosts. Some of their effects include granulomatous
lymphadenitis, pneumonitis, pharyngitis, skin infections, and endocarditis. Endocarditis
caused by Corynebacterium spp. is particularly seen in patients with indwelling
intravascular devices.

Infection by diphtheroids tend to occur in elderly, neutropenic, or immunocompromised

patients, and those who have indwelling prosthetic devices such as heart valves,
neurologic shunts, or catheters.

Some species of Corynebacterium have sequenced genomes that range in size from 2.5 -
3 Mbp. They can be found in many environments including soil, trees and skin. The non-
diptheiroid Corynebecterium can also be found in human mucous membranes. They grow
slowly, even on enriched media, and undergo "Chinese Letter" division. Species of
Corynebacterium have been used in the mass production of various amino acids including
L-Glutamic Acid, a popular food additive that is made at a rate of 1.5 million tons/ year
by Corynebacterium. The metabolic pathways of Corynebacterium have been further
manipulated to produce L-Lysine and L-Threonine.Contents [hide]
1 Species
1.1 Corynebacterium diphtheriae
1.2 Nondiphtheriae Corynebacteria (diphtheroids)
2 Lipophilicity
2.1 Nonlipophilic
2.2 Lipophilic
3 References


Corynebacterium diphtheriae
Corynebacterium diphtheriae, the cause of diphtheria in humans.

Nondiphtheriae Corynebacteria (diphtheroids)
Corynebacterium amycolatum
Corynebacterium aquaticum
Corynebacterium bovis
Corynebacterium equi
Corynebacterium flavescens
Corynebacterium glutamicum
Corynebacterium haemolyticum
Corynebacterium jeikeiun (corynebacteria of group JK)
Corynebacterium minutissimum
Corynebacterium parvum (also called Propionibacterium acnes)
Corynebacterium pseudodiptheriticum (also called Corynebacterium hofmannii)
Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis (also called Corynebacterium ovis)
Corynebacterium pyogenes
Corynebacterium urealyticum (corynebacteria of group D2)
Corynebacterium renale
Corynebacterium striatum, (Axillary odor [1])
Corynebacterium tenuis (Trichomycosis palmellina, Trichomycosis axillaris) [2]
Corynebacterium ulcerans
Corynebacterium xerosis


Most species of corynebacteria are non-lipophilic, but some are lipophilic.


The nonlipophilic bacteriae may be classified as fermentative and non-fermentative:

Fermentative Corynebacteria
C. diphtheriae group
C. xerosis and C. striatum
C. minutissimum
C. amycolatum
C. glucuronolyticum
C. argentoratense
C. matruchotii
Corynebacterium spp. [1]
Nonfermentative Corynebacteria]]
C. afermentans subsp. afermentans]]
C. auris
C. pseudodiphtheriticum
C. propinquum[1]

C. jeikeium
C. urealyticum
C. afermentans subsp. lipophilum
C. accolens
C. macginleyi
CDC coryneform groups F-1 and G]]
C. bovis[1]

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Bacteria
Phylum: Actinobacteria
Order: Actinomycetales
Suborder: Corynebacterineae
Family: Corynebacteriaceae
Genus: Corynebacterium
Lehmann & Neumann 189

Corynebacterium diphtheriae is a pathogenic bacterium that causes diphtheria. It is also

known as the Klebs-Lffler bacillus, because it was discovered in 1884 by German
bacteriologists Edwin Klebs (1834 1912) and Friedrich Lffler (1852 1915).Contents
1 Morphology and toxin production
2 Classification
3 Diagnosis
4 Sensitivity
5 References
6 External links

Morphology and toxin production

C. diphtheriae is a facultatively anaerobic [1] Gram positive organism, characterized by

non-encapsulated, non-sporulated, immobile, straight or curved rods with a length of 1 to
8 m and width of 0.3 to 0.8 m, which form ramified aggregations in culture (looking
like "Chinese characters"). The bacterium may contain polymetaphosphate aggregates
called Volutin granules. It is pathogenic only in humans.

Many strains of C. diphtheriae produce diphtheria toxin, a proteic exotoxin, with a

molecular weight of 62 kilodaltons which ADP-ribosylates host EF-2, which results in
the inhibition of protein synthesis and thus is responsible for the signs of diphtheria. The
inactivation of this toxin with an antitoxic serum (antitoxin) is the basis of the
antidiphtheric vaccination. However, not all strains are toxigenic; the ability to produce
the exotoxin is conferred on the bacterium when it is infected by a bacteriophage (a
mechanism termed "lysogenic activation"). A non-toxigenic strain can thus become
toxigenic by the infection of such a bacteriophage.

Four subspecies are recognized: C. diphtheriae mitis, C. diphtheriae intermedius, C.
diphtheriae gravis, and C. diphtheriae belfanti. The four subspecies differ slightly in their
colonial morphology and biochemical properties such as the ability to metabolize certain
nutrients, but all may be toxigenic (and therefore cause diphtheria) or non-toxigenic.


In order to accurately identify C. diphtheriae, a Gram stain is performed to show gram-

positive, highly pleomorphic organisms with no particular arrangement (classically
resembling Chinese characters). Then, culture the organism on an erichment medium,
namely Lffler's serum, to allow it to overgrow any other organisms present in the
specimen. After that, use a selective plate known as tellurite agar which allows all
Corynebacteria (including C. diphtheriae) to reduce tellurite to metallic tellurium
producing brown colonies and, only in the case of C. diphtheriae, a black halo around the
colonies allowing for easy differentation of the organism.

A low concentration of iron is required in the medium for toxin production. At high iron
concentrations, iron molecules bind to an aporepressor on the beta bacteriophage which
carries the genes for the Tox gene, converting it to a repressor which shuts down toxin
production[2]. This is most appreciated when performing Elek's test for toxogenecity, in
order to know if the organism is able to produce the diphtheria toxin or not.


The bacterium is sensitive to the majority of antibiotics, such as the penicillins,

ampicillin, cephalosporins, quinolones, chloramphenicol, tetracyclines, cefuroxime and


Genus: Corynebacterium
Species: diphtheriae


Corynebacteria belong in the family Mycobacteriaceae and are part of the CMN group
(Corynebacteria, Mycobacteria and Nocardia).
The family Mycobacteriaceae are Gram-positive, nonmotile, catalase-positive and have a
rodlike to filamentous morphology (Corynebacteria are often pleomorphic).
As a group, they produce characteristic long chain fatty acids termed mycolic acids. In
the image to the right, the R-groups represent these chains. For Corynebacteria, chains of
28-40 carbons are common; for Nocardia, chains of 40-56 carbons are produced; for
Mycobacteria, the chains are 60-90 carbons in length.
Corynebacterial cell walls contain thin spots which leads to some Gram variability and
"ballooning" that produces a "club-shaped" cell. Old cells store inorganic phosphate,
which can appear as metachromatic granules when stained.


C. diphtheriae is the etiologic agent of diphtheria.

These organisms colonize the mucus membranes of the respiratory tract and produce the
enzyme neuraminidase which splits N-acetylneuraminic acid (NAN) from cell surfaces to
produce pyruvate which acts as a growth stimulant.
C. diphtheriae also produces diphthin, which is a protease that inactivates IgA.
Toxigenic strains carry the gene tox, which resides on certain bacteriophages;
lysogenization leads to toxigenicity.
The toxin that is produced is a single polypeptide of 62,000 daltons and contains a single
disulfide cross-link. Digestion with trypsin gives 2 fragments, A and B. The B (binding)
fragment attaches to cell surfaces then proteases release the A (active) fragment to enter
the cell. In the cell, the toxin acts as an ADP-ribosyltransferase, inactivating translation
factor EF2.

Humoral immunity (antitoxin) is important in preventing disease.

Diphtheria exists throughout the world and occasional outbreaks occur almost yearly.
The Schick test can be used to ascertain population risk. This test involves the injection
of a minute amount of the diphtheria toxin under the skin. The absence of a reaction
indicates immunity.


Clinical: Muscle weakness, edema and a pseudomembranous material in the upper

respiratory tract characterizes diphtheria.
Laboratory: Tellurite media is the agar of choice for isolation of Corynebacteria, which
produce jet black colonies.


Sanitary: Reduce carrier rate by use of vaccine.

Immunological: A vaccine (DPT) prepared from an alkaline formaldehyde inactivated
toxin (i.e. toxoid) is required. Passive immunization with antitoxin can be used for
Chemotherapeutic: Penicillin, erythromycin or gentamicin are drugs of choice.