Research Article

Immunisation of adults during an outbreak of diphtheria.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983; 286 doi: (Published 19 February 1983) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983;286:624
  1. S R Palmer,
  2. A H Balfour,
  3. A E Jephcott


    In an outbreak of infection due to Corynebacterium diphtheriae in a hospital for mentally subnormal adults sera from 211 members of staff were screened for diphtheria antitoxin titres. Of these, 79 (37%) required immunisation, and a low dose preparation (1 LfU of diphtheria and 10 LfU tetanus toxoids) was offered. Of the 64 subjects who accepted a single immunisation and were subsequently retested, seroconversion to diphtheria toxoid occurred in 45 (70%), the rate being highest in younger adults. Seroconversion to tetanus toxoid occurred in 59% of subjects. Local reactions to the single dose were reported by 29 (43%) subjects, and nine (13%) experienced moderately severe local reactions and systemic symptoms. We conclude that adults should not be vaccinated without previous screening for susceptibility to diphtheria; that neither previous immunisation nor age is reliable in predicting the need for vaccination; and that though a single booster dose of diphtheria toxoid is probably effective in adults under 45, two doses should be given to those in the older age group.