What is Tetanus Bacteria?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a potentially fatal disease affecting the nervous system. This disease is caused by the tetanus bacteria called Clostridium tetani. This tetanus bacteria is commonly found in the intestines of both humans and animals as well as in the soil throughout the world. Common symptoms include muscle spasms involving the head and neck, headache, and irritability, although if left untreated, the muscle spasms can develop throughout the body, causing organ failure. Treatment involves intensive antibiotic treatment and observation in a hospital to prevent the disease from becoming fatal.

Tetanus bacteria can be found anywhere in the world, but infection is more common in developing countries where conditions are not sanitary. Any wound is susceptible to infection by the tetanus bacteria, but deep puncture wounds, such as those incurred by stepping on a rusty nail, are the most likely to become infected. Tetanus symptoms usually begin to appear within two weeks of infection, but in some cases symptoms may not appear for several weeks.


The first symptoms typically experienced by patients who have been infected with the tetanus bacteria generally include a headache and painful muscle spasms in the face, particularly the lower jaw. As the poison from the tetanus bacteria begins to spread, more muscle groups begin to be affected. Muscle spasms may begin in the neck, arms, and legs. Abdominal spasms may then occur, along with severe muscle spasms throughout the body that lead to seizures. If not treated promptly and aggressively, these violent muscle spasms may keep various organs of the body from functioning properly, often leading to death.

Treatment for patients who have been infected by the tetanus bacteria usually involves several weeks in the hospital. During this hospital stay, antibiotics and other medications, including medications aimed at controlling muscle spasms, will be introduced into the body by a tube inserted into a vein. The patient will be closely monitored, and every attempt will be made to reverse any organ damage that may have occurred as a result of the tetanus bacteria.

In many parts of the world, a tetanus vaccine is available that has been designed to prevent infection. While not completely guaranteed to prevent the occurrence of tetanus, most physicians and medical professionals urge the use of this vaccine for protection. Many patients and parents of young patients believe that the potential side effects of the vaccine, including the development of seizure disorders or even death, are not worth the risk. Patient education is key in making the right decision on an individual basis.



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