Determination of the Presence of Diphtheria Toxin in the Myocardial Tissue of Rabbits and a Female Subject by Using an Immunofluorescent Antibody Method

Mehmet Ceyhan, Yasemin Ozsurekci, Merve M. Aydin, Kamil Can Akcali, Beril Talim, Melda Celik, Eda Karadag Oncel, Venhar Gurbuz, Ahmet Emre Aycan, Ilyas Onbasilar, Turan Buzgan


Background: Clinical diagnosis of diphtheria is often difficult, in particular in countries where the disease is rarely observed, such as Turkey. In 2011, after 12 years of no recorded diphtheria cases in Turkey, a 34-year-old woman was diagnosed with diphtheria; she later died of myocarditis. In this study, we aimed to demonstrate the diagnostic potential of an immunofluorescent antibody method to determine the presence of diphtheria toxin (DT) in the myocardial cells of DT-injected rabbits and the female subject.

Methods: We randomly divided rabbits into two groups: a control group and a DT-injected group. Diphtheria intoxication was simulated in the rabbits by intravenous injection of DT. The myocardium of the rabbits and the female subject were harvested for histopathologic and immunofluorescence examination. A mouse monoclonal anti-DT antibody was used for the immunofluorescent antibody method.

Results: The presence of DT in the myocardial cells of both the rabbits and the female subject was visualized using the immunofluorescent method.

Conclusions: Laboratory diagnosis of diphtheria is challenging because of non-toxigenic C. diphtheriae strains and/or the dysfunction of DT. However, visualizing the presence of DT in the myocardial tissue may act as an indicator of biologically active DT. We validated that an immunofluorescent method, which utilizes a monoclonal anti-DT (A-subunit specific) antibody, is a useful diagnostic tool to determine the presence of DT in the myocardium of rabbits and human.

J Clin Med Res. 2015;7(6):472-478


Diphtheria; Diphtheria antibody; Diagnosis; Animal model

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