Clostridium tetani is a bacterium that belongs to the bacteria family Clostridiaceae, genus Clostridium. It is a Gram-positive, obligate anaerobe, rod-shaped species of pathogenic bacteria. The appearance of Clostridium tetani on a gram stain resembles drumsticks or tennis rackets, and some established strains may stain Gram negative. Clostridium tetani is commonly found in soil, saliva, dust, and manure. This bacterium cannot survive in the presence of oxygen, it is also heat-sensitive and exhibits flagellar motility. Clostridium tetani develops a terminal spore when it is mature, which gives the bacterium organism its characteristic appearance. The spore is very hard and resistant to heat and most antiseptics. Spores of Clostridium tetani can be distributed widely in manure-treated soils and on human skin.
Fig. 1 Clostridium tetani particles
Clostridium tetani causes tetanus (also known as lockjaw), an infection a disease characterized by painful muscular spasms. Tetanus can lead to respiratory failure and have a fatality rate of 10%. It has four clinical types. In the most common type, spasms begin in the jaw and then spread to the rest of the body. These spasms usually last only a few minutes each time but occur frequently for three or four weeks. Other symptoms may include fever, high blood pressure, headache, sweating, fractures due to the spasms, trouble swallowing, and a fast heart rate. High risk groups are people exposed to soil or animal feces.
Clostridium tetani usually enters host through wounds to the skin and then replicates. It produces two exotoxins, tetanolysin and tetanospasmin. Tetanus toxin is a potent neurotoxin. Tetanospasmin is known to be one of the most potent toxins, it causes the clinical manifestations of tetanus. It is encoded on a plasmid and is generated in living bacteria, then released when the bacteria lyse.
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