MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019 Mar 29;68(12):281-284. Epub 2019 Mar 29.
From September 2015 to March 2018, CDC confirmed four cases of cutaneous diphtheria caused by toxin-producing Corynebacterium diphtheriae in patients from Minnesota (two), Washington (one), and New Mexico (one). All patients had recently returned to the United States after travel to countries where diphtheria is endemic. C. diphtheriae infection was not clinically suspected in any of the patients; treating institutions detected the organism through matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF) testing of wound-derived coryneform isolates. MALDI-TOF is a rapid screening platform that uses mass spectrometry to identify bacterial pathogens. State public health laboratories confirmed C. diphtheriae through culture and sent isolates to CDC's Pertussis and Diphtheria Laboratory for biotyping, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, and toxin production testing. All isolates were identified as toxin-producing C. diphtheriae. The recommended public health response for cutaneous diphtheria is similar to that for respiratory diphtheria and includes treating the index patient with antibiotics, identifying close contacts and observing them for development of diphtheria, providing chemoprophylaxis to close contacts, testing patients and close contacts for C. diphtheriae carriage in the nose and throat, and providing diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine to incompletely immunized patients and close contacts. This report summarizes the patient clinical information and response efforts conducted by the Minnesota, Washington, and New Mexico state health departments and CDC and emphasizes that health care providers should consider cutaneous diphtheria as a diagnosis in travelers with wound infections who have returned from countries with endemic diphtheria.