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In order to establish the diagnosis of diphtheria, the isolation of Corynebacterium diphtheriae in culture media is required. Determining the presence of diphtheria toxin can also serve to confirm the diagnosis. Diagnostic testing to isolate the bacterium requires obtaining cultures from the nose and throat of individuals suspected of having diphtheria. Furthermore, if diphtheria is suspected in a patient, anyone who has had close contact with that individual should also have cultures obtained. Determining the presence of diphtheria toxin can be accomplished by testing in specialized laboratories. If diphtheria infection is confirmed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should be notified.
In order to evaluate the extent of illness and the involvement of other organ systems, additional blood tests, imaging studies (CT of the neck), and an ECG (electrocardiogram) may be performed.
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