Diphtheria Toxin

Download Diphtheria Toxin PDF


Natural Source

Strains of Corynebacterium diphtheria that have been lysogenized by bacteriaphage β

Laboratory Source

Solid lyophilized toxin


DT is an exotoxin that inhibits eukaryotic protein synthesis by ADP-ribosylating an enlongation factor needed to translocate the ribosome along mRNA

Health Hazards

Route of Entry

Nasopharyngeal and cutaneous

Signs and Symptoms

DT can cause cranial, motor and sensory nerve palsies, myocarditis, and endocarditis.

Toxicity Dose DataLD50 = 0.1 µg/kg

Medical Precautions/Treatment


Clinical symptoms of toxin mediated disease


Booster dose of diphtheria toxoid


Immunization with diphtheria toxoid is typically combined with tetanus toxoid and the pertussis vaccine as DTP and administered to young children.


Administer antitoxin.

Emory Requirements

DT immunization and booster every 10 years

Containment Requirements


Conduct all work with DT inside a biological safety cabinet.

Supplemental References

Canadian MSDS

Pathogen Safety Data Sheets


Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories


Diphtheria Information

Applied Biosafety

Johnson B, Mastnjak R, Resnick IG. 2001. Safety and Health Considerations for Working with Biological Toxins. Applied Biosafety. 6 (3): 117-135

Brock Biology of Microorganisms

Madigan MT, Martinko JM. 2006. Brock Biology of Microorganisms. 11th edition. Upper Saddle River (NJ): Prentice Hall.

Spill Procedures


Notify others working in the lab. Rinse gloves with decontamination solution and don new gloves. Cover area of the spill with paper towels and apply decontamination solution, working from the perimeter towards the center. Exit and keep others from entering the laboratory. Allow 1 hour of contact time before entering the laboratory without respiratory protection. Cleanup and dispose of spill materials.


Contact Emory's Biosafety Officer (404-727-8863),
the EHSO Office (404-727-5922), or
The Spill Response Team (404-727-2888).

Exposure Procedures

Mucous membrane

Flush eyes, mouth or nose for 15 minutes at eyewash station.

Other Exposures

Wash area with soap and water for 15 minutes.


Immediately report incident to supervisor, complete an employee incident report in PeopleSoft.

Medical Followup 

7am-4pm (OIM): EUH (404-686-7941) EUHM (404-686-7106) WW (404-728-6431)

After Hours: OIM NP On Call 404-686-5500 PIC# 50464

Needle Stick (OIM): EUH (404-686-8587) EUHM (404-686-2352)

Yerkes: Maureen Thompson Office (404-727-8012) Cell (404-275-0963)



Decontaminate surfaces with solutions of 1% sodium hypochlorite


Autoclave at 121°C for 1 hour on liquid cycle with lid of primary container loosened

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Minimum PPE Requirements

At minimum, personnel are required to don gloves, closed toed shoes, lab coat, and appropriate face and eye protection prior to working with DT. Additional PPE may be required depending on lab specific SOPs.

Additional Precautions

Depending on the risk assessment, respirators may be required when working with conotoxins. Fit testing and training is required annually per Emory's Respiratory Program (PDF).