Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Tetanus Underlying Cause

Tetanus is caused by bacteria, called Clostridium tetani, which are normally present in the soil. If the bacteria enter a wound, they start to grow and produce a toxin. The toxin is transported by the bloodstream and lymphatic tissues to nerves.

The toxin blocks the action of nerves that block muscle contractions. In turn, this allows other nerves to constantly stimulate the muscles to contract, resulting in painful, severe muscle spasms. Once the toxin attaches to a nerve, the toxin cannot be neutralized by antitoxin.

Continue to Tetanus Transmission

Last Updated: Aug 8, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Tetanus References
  1. Attygalle D, Rodrigo N. New trends in the management of tetanus. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2004 Feb;2(1):73-84. [15482173]
  2. Hsu SS, Groleau G. Tetanus in the emergency department: a current review. J Emerg Med. 2001 May;20(4):357-65. [11348815]
  3. Rhee P, Nunley MK, Demetriades D, Velmahos G, Doucet JJ. Tetanus and trauma: a review and recommendations. J Trauma. 2005 May;58(5):1082-8. [15920431]
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