Ep 95 Tetanus: An inhuman calamity!

[CW: Firsthand account includes description of the death of an infant. Skip approximately first 3 min to avoid.]

What comes to mind when you hear the word tetanus? For many people, it’s probably the horrible thought of stepping on a rusty nail or the every-so-often Tdap booster you get at your doctor’s office. Thanks to the wide availability of this incredibly effective vaccine, not many of us have an image of what an infection with tetanus actually looks like or how deadly it can be. But that’s not the case everywhere, especially in places with limited access to these life-saving vaccines. In this episode, we take you through the biology of the spore-forming, soil-dwelling, obligately anaerobic, Gram positive Clostridium tetani and the powerful paralytic neurotoxins it produces. We then venture into the history of this pathogen, a history that includes a tour through early medical texts and a discussion of the origins of epidemiology as viewed through the context of neonatal tetanus in the American South. We round out the episode by reviewing where tetanus still poses a substantial threat today and highlighting some very exciting ways this deadly pathogen may be used to treat cancer! Tune in to gain a newfound respect for this incredible microbe!

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