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Lancet. 2019 Mar 29. pii: S0140-6736(18)33131-3. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)33131-3. [Epub ahead of print]

Tetanus.

Author information

1
Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
2
Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. Electronic address: lthwaites@oucru.org.

Abstract

Tetanus is a vaccine-preventable disease that still commonly occurs in many low-income and middle-income countries, although it is rare in high-income countries. The disease is caused by the toxin of the bacterium Clostridium tetani and is characterised by muscle spasms and autonomic nervous system dysfunction. Global vaccination initiatives have had considerable success but they continue to face many challenges. Treatment for tetanus aims to control spasms and reduce cardiovascular instability, and consists of wound debridement, antitoxin, antibiotics, and supportive care. Recent research has focused on intravenous magnesium sulphate and intrathecal antitoxin administration as methods of spasm control that can avoid the need for ventilatory support. Nevertheless, without access to mechanical ventilation, mortality from tetanus remains high. Even with such care, patients require several weeks of hospitalisation and are vulnerable to secondary problems, such as hospital-acquired infections.

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