Current concepts in the management of Clostridium tetani infection

Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2008 Jun;6(3):327-36. doi: 10.1586/14787210.6.3.327.


This review summarizes the microbiology, management and prevention of tetanus. Tetanus is an acute toxemic illness caused by Clostridium tetani infection at a laceration or break in the skin. It can also occur as a complication of burns, puerperal infections, umbilical stumps (tetanus neonatorum) and surgical-site infection. Tetanus is an intoxication, manifested mostly by neuromuscular dysfunction, caused by tetanal exotoxin (tetanospasmin), a potent exotoxin produced by C. tetani. It starts with tonic spasms of the skeletal muscles and is followed by paroxysmal contractions. The muscle stiffness initially involves the jaw (lockjaw) and neck and later becomes generalized. Treatment goals include interrupting the production of toxin, neutralizating the unbound toxin, controlling muscle spasms, managing dysautonomia and appropriate supportive management. Specific therapy includes intramuscular administration of tetanus immunoglobulin to neutralize circulating toxin before it binds to neuronal cell membranes. The disease can be prevented by immunization with tetanal toxoid and appropriate wound care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clostridium tetani / metabolism
  • Clostridium tetani / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Immunization
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Metalloendopeptidases / immunology
  • Metalloendopeptidases / toxicity
  • Tetanus / microbiology
  • Tetanus / physiopathology
  • Tetanus / prevention & control*
  • Tetanus / therapy*
  • Tetanus Toxin / immunology
  • Tetanus Toxin / toxicity
  • Tetanus Toxoid / administration & dosage


  • Tetanus Toxin
  • Tetanus Toxoid
  • tetanospasmin
  • Metalloendopeptidases