Toxic spores of Clostridium tetani

Common cause of tetanus

Opisthotonos: body posture associated with involuntary muscle contractions

Neonatal tetanus



Title: The Effects Tetanus has on the Central Nervous System
Author: Melissa Calvin
Date: December 9, 2010

Tetanus is a potentially deadly disease, 10% of all causes result in fatality. It is a very serious infection and needs to be treated before contracted to prevent it. Symptoms are involuntary and extremely painful. Although controversial, vaccinations are available and have been around since 1924. The prevention of this disease is through prior vaccination, shots. Immunization has had a significant impact in reducing the number of cases throughout the world. To ensure immunity it is recommended to re-immunize every ten years.
Tetanus is a neuromuscular disease caused by a toxic spore produce by Clostridium tetani (Tortura, 2009). It is gram positive, rod shaped, and an obligate anaerobe. This disease affects the nerve and muscle connectivity and function in our bodies. I have been an athlete all my life and the function and contractions of muscles are important in every sport and have always intrigued me. Tetanus works completely against all the proper contractions, which in turn forces the muscle fibers to tug at one another simultaneously. Also, here in the US tetanus vaccinations are required in schools, universities, and some jobs.
Clostridium tetani blocks the pathway of opposing muscles with a tetanus neurotoxin. This bacterium is very stubborn and hard to kill as they are resistant to heat and many chemical agents. C. tetani spores are found in soil, saliva, dust, intestines, and feces of both animals and humans. The bacterium enters the body through a wound such as, stepping on a nail, splinters, contamination with soil or feces, or self piercing and tattooing to name a few. Tetanus is not spread from person to person! Once infected, there is an incubation period before any symptoms arise. This incubation time depends on the site of the injury in relation to the central nervous system. The closer to the nervous system the quicker it takes effect, and is usually a more severe case. Incubation occurs anywhere from three days to three weeks. When the toxin reaches the central nervous system, the most common symptoms are; spasm of jaw muscles, stiffness in the neck, difficulty swallowing, stiffness in abdominal muscles. Other symptoms include; fever, sweating, elevated blood pressure, and rapid heart rate. The muscular spasms can last several minutes and persist up to three to four weeks. In recent studies, 10% of tetanus cases were fatal! The diagnoses are strictly based on clinical signs and symptoms. Laboratory testing is not useful because C. tetani usually cannot be recovered from the wound. There is unfortunately no “cure” once a person develops symptoms. The best treatment is prevention through immunization. You can repeatedly get tetanus; there is no immunity once you have contracted this illness. The vaccine is a toxoid; an inactivated toxin that produces antibodies that attempt to neutralize the toxin produced by Clostridium tetani. There are four main vaccinations used: DTaP, DT, Tdap, Td.
-DTaP is diphtheria, tetanus toxoids, and a cellular pertussis combination. This is given to children and infants six weeks old to six years old.
-DT is just diphtheria and the tetanus toxoid given to the same age group. A high percentage of people have a negative reaction to the pertussis vaccination.
-Tdap is the combination of all three given to adolescents and adults.
-Td is just the tetanus toxoids and diphtheria for adolescents and adults.
*the capital letters signify a higher dose
Tetanus is a worldwide disease that effects many different ages and even species in a very similar way. Humans need to be consistently vaccinated to continue immunity from this painful disease.
Works Cited:
-Tortora, G.J. 2007. Microbiology. Pearson Education Inc., CA., 647-648 pgs.
-Busuttil, A. 1974. Traditional treatment of 194 cases of tetanus. Published online in Wiley 61, 731-734 (2005).
-Dyce , O., Bruno, J., Hong, D., and Silverstein, K.: "Tongue Piercing...The New Rusty Nail?" Case Report. (2000): 1-5. Database: Interscience
-Rush, B., Observations upon the cause and cure of tetanus:
-Cocke, W. An inaugural dissertation on tetanus:
-May, F. An inaugural dissertation on the animating principle, tetanus: