Tetanus is an infectious disease, recognized for the
first time in 1884 by some researchers of the University of Turin.
The disease is not contagious and is triggered by a bacterium called
Clostridium tetani. It is a gram-positive anaerobic pathogen,
therefore it is able to develop exclusively in the absence of oxygen. The
danger, however, is not given so much by the bacterium itself, rather by a
particular toxin it emits, called tetanospasmin. Tetanus, a very dangerous toxin
As we have said, the symptoms are caused by a
particular toxin, tetanospasmin, which produces a particularly
toxic to the nervous system. Just to realize how dangerous it is,
just think that an infinitesimal dose – about 7 millionths of a
milligram – can kill a man. Transmission of tetanus
The bacterium is found in very common places, especially
in the intestines of the animals we eat – including cattle, sheep and
horses. It is well known, in fact, the very high risk to which
people who love to ride are subjected to tetanus. The main problem with tetanus is that the
spores can survive for many years and contaminate the earth and
dust. Generally they are transmitted in the human being by means of wounds –
even very small but deep cuts are enough. Here the spores can proliferate
and transform into vegetative forms (always and only in the absence of oxygen) which
give rise to deadly toxins. How tetanus toxin spreads in the
As you said, fear is not represented by the bacterium
itself but by its toxin. This is the one that can reach – through
the blood flow – various parts of the body such as the nervous and
lymphatic systems. Symptoms of Tetanus Tetanus
toxin, reaching the nervous system and
interfering with some neurotransmitters – implicated in physiological functioning
of the muscles – can cause involuntary muscle contractions.
Depending on where the wound is located,
head muscles may also spasm. One of the most common is the so-called hyena rice, it is
a particular grimace that is highlighted in the mouth due to a
contraction. At this stage it is essential to act promptly and go to the
emergency room. From this moment on, in fact, you can run into
a whole series of much more serious symptoms: contraction of the muscles of the nape,
neck, trunk, limbs and, finally, those of breathing that can
cause death. Other symptoms, a little less specific, are difficulty
of swallowing, sweating and irritability. Incubation of tetanus
Incubation can vary from a minimum of three days to a
maximum of 21. While a rarer form, the neonatal one – transmitted from mother to daughter, especially in developing countries –
fewer days of incubation which can vary from seven to fourteen days. What to do in case of a suspicious wound
If you suspect that a wound may have been infected
with tetanus, it is important to carefully clean the wound – letting out some
blood – with hydrogen peroxide. After that it is essential to go to the
nearest emergency room for tetanus prophylaxis. This
it involves the administration of specific immunoglobulins and, possibly,
also the tetanus vaccine. It should be remembered that tetanus
must be present in a fairly deep or necrotic wound in order to develop, this is a
fairly typical factor of slightly deeper wounds. Generally the
superficial ones are exposed to oxygen and therefore, in such conditions, the spores
are unable to return to being viable. It is not rust that causes tetanus
Unlike what is commonly believed,
rust is not the main cause of tetanus. The fact that an object is rusty
only indicates that it has been exposed to the external environment for a long time and therefore can more
easily be subject to bacterial contamination. All objects that
have been in contact with earth or dust are potentially at risk of tetanus,
especially if horses or
farm animals are found in the surrounding environment. Who risks tetanus
In general, only unvaccinated subjects
who come into contact with environments contaminated by horses and
farm animals or who have been bitten by an animal are at risk for tetanus. People who have had
the vaccine – mandatory since 1963 – should not be exposed to the risk.
Although, it should be remembered, that every 10 years it would be appropriate to make a recall. Therapy
Following the diagnosis of tetanus, it is essential to ask
subject away from noisy places that could cause seizures.
Symptoms can be controlled by taking barbiturates or
benzodiazepines. The bacterium can be eradicated with some types of antibiotics
including tetracyclines, macrolides, metronidazole and penicillins. Finally,
the supply of fluid nutrients must be controlled in order to counteract
the catabolites that have accumulated due to muscle contractions.

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