• Walter A. Orenstein
  • Steven G. F. Wassilak


Tetanus is a noncommunicable infectious disease of humans and certain animal species, acquired through environmental exposure. Clostridium tetani is an anaerobic, spore-forming resident of the soil as well as the intestinal tracts of a large proportion of animals and humans. The ubiquitous spores germinate to vegetative bacilli when introduced into the soft tissues of the host under conditions in which the partial pressure of molecular oxygen is low. The vegetative organisms produce a potent neurotoxin that acts on the central nervous system leading to the muscular contractions characteristic of the illness. Although a significant proportion of tetanus cases occur in wounded adults and children, the major burden of tetanus in the world is borne by neonates, who are both (1) contaminated at or soon after birth and (2) born to mothers who are not adequately immunized. Prevention of tetanus can be achieved by passive immunization following wounds in which presumptive contamination with spores occurred; however, a more efficient means of prevention is by active immunization with tetanus toxoid, which is chemically inactivated toxin.


Tetanus Toxoid Pertussis Vaccine Tetanus Toxin Diphtheria Toxoid Neonatal Tetanus 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter A. Orenstein
    • 1
  • Steven G. F. Wassilak
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Immunization, Center for Prevention ServicesCenters for Disease ControlAtlantaUSA

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