Can tetanus get from rust?
It is not rust that causes disease, but a microbe present in the earth and dirt.
According to a widespread rumor that we have all heard since childhood, tetanus is caught by scratching yourself with rusty objects, for example an old barbed wire, a screwdriver or a nail. In fact, tetanus is caused by a bacterium, clostridium tetani. The symptoms of the disease, that is, progressive spasms that come to affect swallowing, breathing and the heart, are not caused by the bacterium itself, but by the tetanus toxin that the bacterium produces. This toxin affects the nervous system, and is one of the most poisonous substances in the world: roughly one third of a grain of sugar is enough to kill a man.
Clostridium tetani is very widespread in the environment in which we live, because its spores, that is the dormant form of the bacterium, are very resistant to both boiling and disinfectants. Bacterium and spores are present in particularly high quantities in the faeces of animals, especially of horses, and consequently in the earth, therefore in the countryside and in gardens. The rusty barbed wire, therefore, is dangerous only as it can easily become contaminated, but scratches with the thorns of roses or other plants that grow in the earth, and in general with any dirty object, they are just as dangerous.
Due to its widespread diffusion, on the other hand, it is practically impossible to avoid coming into contact with Clostridium tetani in the course of one's life: the only way to protect yourself from tetanus is to get vaccinated and always check that you have made periodic boosters. prescribed every 10 years.
1. Harrison's Principles of internal medicine. 18th Edition, 2012.