Tetanus: The Natural-Born Killer
Mia Battani and Kaleb Brooks
What is Tetanus, Exactly?
Using drugs such as Insulin may put you at a higher risk for a tetanus infection.
It is especially important for people that are prone to injury to watch out for objects that can puncture the skin.
High-Risk Outdoor Work
Because tetanus is naturally found outdoors and outdoor job sites often house safety hazards, those that work in high-risk conditions or outdoors need to be especially wary of tetanus.
How does My Body Fight Off Tetanus?
Usually these two types cells alone can fight off diseases, but sometimes these defenses are overwhelmed and signal for a messenger to kick in the body's specific immune system responses, or cells that are specialized to attack specific pathogens in the body (not just any random foreign object). First of all, the messenger cell travels to the nearest lymph node to activate a type of cell called Helper-T cells, which multiply once activated. Most of these cells move to the infection site to fight off the infection in the body's fluids, but a second group remain behind to "remember" the bacteria in the case of a future infection of the same bacteria. Unfortunately, in the case of tetanus, memory cells aren't as helpful because the toxin released by the bacteria is so potent that it only needs a very small amount to do damage... an amount insufficient to make effective memory cells (and therefore acquired immunity) to tetanus. From there, a third group travels further into the lymph node to activate B-Cells, which have the ability to release antibodies to mark cells for death by macrophage. Helper-T Cells stimulate this process so that the B-Cell doesn't stop releasing these antibodies to get the maximum output possible. Again, this is a sort-of catch-22, because the tetanus bacteria attack nerve cells, which take months to replenish after being killed off. Simply stated, this is the reason why it takes so long to be completely over the tetanus disease. For a more detailed explanation of how the immune system works, please reference the video below.
Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention
Unfortunately, there is no end-all cure for tetanus. To diagnose tetanus, doctors solely use physical symptoms and behaviors, as lab tests are almost never useful for this bacteria. To treat tetanus, sedatives are often administered in heavy doses to help control muscle spasms, and an antitoxin can be administered, but does no good once the toxin has already bonded with nerve cells. Due to the slow division and repair rate of nerve cells, complete recovery may take months. The best course of action concerning tetanus is to stop it before it starts; in other words, receiving the tetanus vaccination is the best way to stop this disease before it can do any harm. Vaccination is especially important because in this case, the body cannot become naturally immune to tetanus due to the very small amount of toxin released to do damage. In order to remain immune to tetanus, it is recommended that after the initial vaccination series you get a booster shot every ten years. Because so little of the bacteria is needed to infect you, getting the disease and beating it once will not make you immune. You should also get a tetanus shot immediately after getting a wound that may contain the bacteria. The vaccination will jump start the immune system, just in case you get infected.
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