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Corynebacteria are Gram-positive aerobic nonmotile rod-shaped bacteria related to the Actinomycetes They do not form spores or branch as do the actinomycetes but they have the characteristic of forming irregular shaped club-shaped or V-shaped arrangements in normal growth They undergo snapping movements just after cell division which brings them into characteristic arrangements resembling Chinese letters The genus Corynebacterium consists of a diverse group of bacteria including animal and plant pathogens as well as saprophytes Some corynebacteria are part of the normal flora of humans finding a suitable niche in virtually every anatomic site The best known and most widely studied species is Corynebacterium diphtheriae the causal agent of the disease diphtheria History and Background No bacterial disease of humans has been as successfully studied as diphtheria The etiology mode of transmission pathogenic mechanism and molecular basis of exotoxin structure function and action have been clearly established Consequently highly effective methods of treatment and prevention of diphtheria have been developed The study of Corynebacterium diphtheriae traces closely the development of medical microbiology immunology and molecular biology Many contributions to these fields as well as to our understanding of host-bacterial interactions have been made studying diphtheria and the diphtheria toxin Hippocrates provided the first clinical description of diphtheria in the 4th century BC There are also references to the disease in ancient Syria and Egypt In the 17th century murderous epidemics of diphtheria swept Europe in Spain El garatillo the strangler in Italy and Sicily the gullet disease In the 18th century the disease reached the American colonies and reached epidemic proportions in 1735 Often whole families died of the disease in a few weeks The bacterium that caused diphtheria was first described by Klebs in 1883 and was cultivated by Loeffler in 1884 who applied Kochs postulates and properly identified Corynebacterium diphtheriae as the agent of the disease In 1884 Loeffler concluded that C diphtheriae produced a soluble
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