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What is the treatment for diphtheria?
There are two treatment strategies that are used for patients diagnosed with
diphtheria. Both are most effective when utilized early in the disease process.
The first treatment is antibiotics. The CDC recommends erythromycin as the first-line therapy for patients older than
6 months of age. For patients who are younger
or who cannot take erythromycin, the CDC recommends intramuscular penicillin.
Patients usually become noninfectious after about 48 hours of antibiotic
treatment and should be held in isolation until that time to prevent spread of
The second treatment is administration of diphtheria antitoxin. However, this
antitoxin is only available from the CDC. Diphtheria antitoxin reduces the
progression of the disease by binding diphtheria toxin that has not yet attached
to the body's cells. The antitoxin is derived from horses, so recipients should
not be treated if they are allergic. Your doctor will make the
decision if you need only antibiotics or antibiotics and antitoxin based on your
symptoms, immunization status, and disease progression.