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Tetanus Disease Symptoms and Treatment Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 20th, 2020


Clostridium tetani are the microorganisms that are responsible for causing tetanus disease. It is active in the absence of oxygen, and it is sensitive to heat. The microorganism belongs to the genus Clostridium, and its form of a gram strain corresponds to the shape of a drumstick or the tennis rackets. Sporulation that happens inside the cells determines its appearance. According to Thwaites and Loan (2015), the microorganism depends on fermentation because it is an obligate anaerobe.

Spores of the microorganism can only develop in the body of a host through an open wound. Clostridium tetani are motile and use rotary flagella to move in the body of a living organism. It can survive in different environments. It is mainly found in the dusty environment, soil, and sediment. Campbell et al. (2009) analysis found that the microorganism can also live in intestinal tracts of animals and humans. In this environment, it develops and become pathogenic.

History of the Tetanus

Tetanus is an ancient disease that was associated with causing serious muscle spasms and wounds. The causal factor for the disease was discovered in 1884 by Carle and Rattone. Transmission, cause, and clearance of the ambiguities associated with tetanus were approved in the year 1890. The study was conducted by injecting Clostridium Tetani that was extracted from an infected person into an animal’s body.

The analysis hence demonstrated that the microorganism is responsible for causing tetanus and could be neutralized using antibodies. According to Campbell et al. (2009), neutralization was conducted using specific antibodies to reduce levels of tetanus among people. Tetanus antitoxin was used to cause passive immunity in human bodies. Antitoxin was hence used to prevent infections and during the treatment processes.


Tetanus infections are transmitted by exposing deep-tissue puncture wounds to Clostridium tetani bacteria. The microorganism is naturally found in rusty metals, dust, sediments, fecal matter, and soils. According to Rodrigo, Fernando, and Rajapakse (2014), when the deep wound is exposed to substances that are likely to allow survival of Clostridium tetani will cause the transmission of tetanus in a host’s body. The microorganism can only survive in the absence of oxygen.

Wounds contain dead cells, and as a result, they offer favorable conditions for it to survive in the host. The growth process starts in open and dirty wounds where it ferments and releases small quantities that are the causal agent of tetanus disease. Toxins are released during the immobile stages of their growth. Scores of toxins are freed after the cell lyses and discharge the contents into the body of the victim. Tetanus toxins are disseminated to neurons, bloodstreams, and the nervous systems causing the disease in the host’s body (Thwaites & Loan, 2015).


Symptoms of tetanus emerge between the 7th and 10th day after infection. The incubation period can vary ranging from 4 days to 3 weeks and even months depending on the distance of the injury site and the central nervous system. The severity of the symptoms is more for victims with short incubation periods. Symptoms are detected as a result of muscles becoming stiff especially the jaws, abdominal, and limb causing difficulties when swallowing substances and breathing problems.

Other symptoms include fever, diarrhea, sore throat, sweating, tachycardia, headache, and bloody stools. The microorganism causes tetanus toxin that is a potent neurotoxin. It works at different sites of the central nervous system, and the manifestation of tetanus emerges after it blocks inhibitory impulses. It attacks the body by blocking the release of neurotransmitters interfering with messages that are sent to the brain (Hassel, 2013).

Pathogen and immune system

Pathogens can be cleared by the immune system of the host. Specific antibodies are injected into the host’s body to neutralize toxin levels. Rodrigo et al. (2014) support that Induced passive immunity in humans can be used for preventing and treating the disease. Pathogens can persist and cause chronic infection. For instance, in severe cases, muscle spasms can cause bone fractures, aspiration pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, and acute renal failure. Clostridium tetani lack particular virulence to cause diseases, but it evades our immune response through transmission in open wounds that contain dead cells.

Treatment options

According to Hassel (2013), tetanus is treated through applying different methods like supportive care, medications that are meant to manage muscle spasms, wound treatment, vaccination, antibiotics, and the use of tetanus immune globulin to control the infection. Medications that are supposed to reduce muscle spasms include baclofen, dantrolene, and benzodiazepines, for example, midazolam and diazepam.

Antibiotics are used when killing Clostridium tetani in the body of a host, for instance, the use of penicillin and metronidazole. Surgically cleaning wounds is vital and it helps in removing any thriving tetanus bacteria. Vaccination is also important as part of treatment among people who develop tetanus.

Vaccines play a significant role as one of the most preventive strategies of tetanus (Hassel, 2013). Tetanus vaccines enable people to have enough protection for five years, but its effectiveness decreases gradually. Tetanus immune globulin is administered as a preventive strategy to people who have never been vaccinated, and those who have doubts concerning their vaccination history. It is advisable to boost immunity especially for patients with open and dirty wounds.

Booster shots of tetanus immune globulin are also administered to patients with suppressed immune systems, for instance, people suffering from acquired immune deficiency syndrome. The public prevents tetanus by ensuring children are vaccinated. People should clean wounds using uncontaminated water and soaps and seek medical advice for open and dirty wounds. The public should avoid direct contact with causal factors by wearing protective gear to prevent accidents and infections from dirty and sharp objects (Campbell et al., 2009).


Tetanus has remained a major health problem worldwide. Its effects are common in developing countries. Clostridium tetani are sensitive to heat and hence it causes a tropical disease that affects many people in third world nations. Statistics indicate that approximately 1 million people die from tetanus every year. About 80% of the annual deaths reported occur in South East Asia and Africa and it is endemic in ninety countries worldwide. Incomplete deployment of the vaccine among vulnerable people is the primary cause of tetanus. Approximately, 50% of the reported deaths are a result of neonatal tetanus.

The most current outbreak occurred in 2005, and it affected tsunami survivors in Indonesia. About 112 victims had injuries that were caused by the debris. They were lying in dirty water that could have contributed to the transmission of the disease (Rodrigo et al., 2014).

Relevance to Health Worker and Patient in the United States

Understanding the causes, preventive measures, and treatment procedures are important factors that facilitate in addressing the tetanus epidemic. Health workers can manage to handle their patients by administering the right preventive and therapeutic drugs. They can also advise them on different ways of preventing and detecting symptoms of tetanus and hence reporting it on time. Patients can benefit from learning the need for keeping their open wounds clean and avoiding causal factors of tetanus. Clostridium Tetani is a microorganism that causes a worldwide known disease.


Campbell, J. I., Lam, T. Y., Huynh, T. L., To, S. D., Tran, T. N., Nguyen, V. H., &… Baker, S. (2009). Microbiologic characterization and antimicrobial susceptibility of Clostridium tetani isolated from wounds of patients with clinically diagnosed tetanus. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 80(5), 827-831.

Hassel, B. (2013). Tetanus: Pathophysiology, treatment, and the possibility of using botulinum toxin against tetanus-induced rigidity and spasms. Toxins, 5(1), 73. Web.

Rodrigo, C., Fernando, D., & Rajapakse, S. (2014). Pharmacological management of tetanus: an evidence-based review. Critical Care. Web.

Thwaites, C. L., & Loan, H. T. (2015). Eradication of tetanus. British Medical Bulletin, 116(1), 69. Web.

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