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Tetanus is a non-contagious disease that is caused by gram-positive bacteria called Clostridium tetani [1][2], which spores can normally be found in soil and animal manure (e.g. cows). The spores enter the body through breaks in the skin such as puncture wounds and develop into bacteria, releasing a neurotoxin called tetanospasmin [3]. This toxin disturbs the regulation at neuromuscular junction that then leads to continuous muscle contraction [4]. Once the bacteria are inside the body, they multiply quickly and produces more spores that will eventually leads to more toxin being released. In general, deep wounds are more prone to the infection due to the anaerobic nature of the bacteria [5].

There are 4 types of tetanus [6][7]:

  1. Generalized
  2. Neonatal
  3. Localized – spasms occur in a confined area close to the site of the injury
  4. Cephalic – lesions of the head/face

Both generalized and neonatal tetanus affect muscles of the whole body and may result in death caused by respiratory failure.


The incubation period of C. tetani is 4-21 days after the infection, although it takes 10 days on average. Some of the initial symptoms are stiffness in jaw muscles (which is why it is referred as ‘lockjaw’), painful muscle spasms that may lead to difficulty in breathing and swallowing, and high fever. Complications from the disease normally depends on the location of the spasms [8][9]. Some of the complications are laryngospasms (brief spasm of the vocal cords) and fractures. If not treated, the symptoms can progress to severe muscle spasms and nervous system disorders [10] and may eventually lead to death [11].

Treatment and Prevention

  1. Injection of Tetanus Immunoglobulin (TIG) – contains antibodies that kill C. tetani as well as removing any unbound toxin in the bloodstream [12].
  2. Tetanus Vaccine – Recommended to be taken every 10 years [13].
  3. Antibiotics


  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Tetanus/
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/tetanus/about/causes-transmission.html
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3564069/
  4. https://www.medicinenet.com/tetanus/article.htm
  5. https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/tetanus
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3564069/
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/tetanus/clinicians.html
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3564069/
  9. https://www.medicinenet.com/tetanus/article.htm
  10. https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/tetanus
  11. https://www.cdc.gov/tetanus/clinicians.html
  12. https://www.medicinenet.com/tetanus/article.htm
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3564069/

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