If you've ever had the misfortune of stepping on a rusty nail, then you've probably been to the doctor for a booster tetanus shot. But what exactly is tetanus, and how does the shot help keep you safe? Tetanus is an infection caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. When these bacteria enter the body, they produce a poison or toxin that can cause serious health problems. To protect against this infection, the CDC recommends vaccination against tetanus for people of all ages.
The bacterium that causes tetanus, Clostridium tetani, is closely related to another famous disease-causing microbe -- Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes deadly botulism. Both of these bacterium are anaerobic rod-shaped organisms that reside in the soil. Both produce toxins that are extremely harmful to humans and many animals. The Clostridium genus contains about 100 species, including Clostridium difficile, which can cause diarrhea and many other less-harmful species.
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