Can Rust Give You Tetanus?

Tetanus is caused by a bacterium clostridium tetany. This is an anaerobic bacterium that is present abundantly in dust, soil, manure and saliva. It enters our body through a wound or an injury. This disease presents with sudden spasms and rigidity or stiffness in the muscles of our body. These spasms are very powerful and extremely painful and can result in serious damage to the organs. Tetanus is also known as lockjaw.

Before we discuss about whether rust can give us tetanus, it is only justifiable that we first see the cause of tetanus.

As described above, tetanus is caused by the anaerobic bacterium clostridium tetany. This bacterium thrives in anaerobic environment. The spores of this bacterium are found in abundance in mediums like dust, soil, manure and saliva. They enter the body through a wound or an injury and grow into bacteria thereafter. From there they travel and reach the central nervous system and target the nerves. Here they get attached to the nerve endings and compromise the work of the nerves, which are responsible for control of the muscles that cause contraction and relaxation in our body. They produce a toxin known as tetanospasmin, which causes the malfunctioning of the nerves. Tetanospasmin is so powerful that it can cause sudden, painful and powerful spasms of the muscles. This usually starts in the jaw and then spreads to the rest of the body.

Abdomen, chest, back and buttock muscles can be affected. This can cause severe damage to the systems of the body, including respiratory system. As a result, respiratory failure can occur, and the person may need to be kept on mechanical ventilator. Due to these spasms, there is a peculiar arching of the back muscles, like a bridge or a bow shape, which is known as opisthotonos. It is an extremely painful condition.

Can Rust Give You Tetanus?

Can Rust Give You Tetanus?

Tetanus is very commonly linked with rust. And even more commonly with rusty nails. It is believed that an injury with rusted nails can cause tetanus. However, this is just one side of the story. The other side of the story says that, rust in itself is not a cause of tetanus. However, it can be a carrier for the tetanus bacterium. As said earlier, the clostridium tetany stays in a habitat that has a lot of dust and soil. Such place is usually found outside the house, in backyards, scrapyards etc. And, rust usually occurs on the objects that are left outside unattended for a long period. Hence, such objects are naturally overloaded with dirt, soil and dust. These provide a good environment for the spores to live. If such an object causes injury, there is an obvious chance that the bacterium will enter the wound along with the dust. So, any object that accumulates a lot of dust and dirt, if it causes an injury, then it is a potential risk factor for tetanus. Similarly, a nail, even if it is not rusty, but has accumulated dust and dirt over it, can be a potential risk factor for tetanus too.

Rusty nail is a classic example of a potential risk factor for tetanus, as it provides a great means for the transport of the bacterium in the body by attracting more C. tetany spores and also causing a deep, punctured wound. But, all the same, a non-rusty nail that was lying in dust poses an equal threat of transferring the bacterium to the body.

Hence, about whether rust can give us tetanus, well it can be said that it is a convenient carrier for the spores to get collected. And if such a rusty object causes an injury, then there definitely lies a risk of being infected by tetanus.

It is best to get oneself evaluated by a physician in to eliminate any risk of getting tetanus, as tetanus is a seriously fatal disease.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 12, 2019

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