Tetanus Toxin

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Natural Source

Clostridium tetani


100 kDa heavy chain (fragment B) and a 50kDa light chain (fragment A)

Type of Toxin


Commercial Presentation


Health Hazards

Modes of Transmission

Spores of C. tetani are found in soil, dust and animal feces. Transmission occurs through contamination of wounds with soil or foreign bodies contaminated with C. tetani spores. There is no person to person transmission.

LD50 (ug/kg) in Humans

0.003 ug/kg

Signs and Symptoms

Unopposed muscle contraction and spasm, Risus Sardonicus (a rigid smile), Trismus (commonly known as lock-jaw), and Opisthotonus (rigid, arched back). Seizures may occur, and the autonomic nervous system may also be affected


Tetanus is a medical emergency requiring hospitalization, immediate treatment with human tetanus immune globulin (TIG), agents to control muscle spasm, aggressive wound care, antibiotics, and a tetanus toxoid booster. If tetanus immune globulin is unavailable, Immune Globulin Intravenous (IGIV) can be used.

Host Range

Human, domestic and wild animals.

Medical Precautions/Treatment


Follow CDC's protocol for tetanus prophylaxis with TIG in routine wound management.


Vaccination during recovery: Tetanus disease does not result in tetanus immunity. Active immunization with a tetanus toxoid-containing vaccine should begin or continue as soon as the person's condition has stabilized.

Individuals working with Tetanus Toxin should be offered the Tetanus vaccine. Adults should get one dose of the tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine every 10 years.


Physical exam, medical and immunization history, and the signs and symptoms of muscle spasms, stiffness and pain. Laboratory tests generally aren't helpful for diagnosing tetanus.

Emory Requirements

Report all incidents using PeopleSoft.

Laboratory Hazards

Laboratory Acquired Infections

Laboratory-acquired cases of Tetanus Toxin have occurred.


Inhaled, ingestion, skin absorption.



Tetanus Information



Follow Chemical Safety hazard assessment. Work inside the biosafety cabinet.


In vitro work should be conducted inside the BSC.

Spill Procedures


Notify others working in the lab.  Allow aerosols to settle.  Don appropriate PPE. An EPA-registered disinfectant should be used to remove contaminating matter from surfaces (e.g., of bench tops and equipment). All decontamination litter and other disposable materials should be autoclaved.


For assistance, contact Emory's Biosafety Officer (404-727-8863), or the EHSO Spill Team (404-727-2888)

Exposure Procedures

Mucous Membrane

Flush eyes, mouth or nose for 15 minutes at eyewash station.

Other Exposures

Wash area with soap and water for 15 minutes.


Immediately report incident to supervisor, complete an employee incident report using PeopleSoft.

Medical Follow-up 

7am-4pm (OIM): 404-686-8587

After Hours: OIM NP On Call 404-686-5500 PIC# 50464

Needle Stick (OIM): 404-686-8587 or APP On Call: 404-686-5500 PIC# 50464

Yerkes: Maureen Thompson, Office (404-727-8012), Cell (404-275-0963)



10% bleach


Steam Autoclave 1 hr 121C

Survival Outside Host

Does survive outside the host.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Minimum PPE Requirements

Lab coat/scrub Gloves Eye protection when working outside the biosafety cabinet or a chemical fume hood. Avoid contact with skin and eyes. Avoid formation of dust and aerosols. Provide appropriate exhaust ventilation at places where dust is formed. Additional PPE may be required depending on lab specific SOPs.

Additional Precautions

Use a biological safety cabinet (BSC) or a chemical fume hood for resuspension of the biological toxin or manipulations of stock solutions of toxins that can generate aerosols, such as pipetting, harvesting, infecting cells, filling tubes/containers, and opening sealed centrifuge canisters.

Waste Management

Solid Waste

Materials that are potentially contaminated with toxins shall be disposed of as biohazardous waste and sharps must be disposed of in a sharps container.