What is Tetanus Immunoglobulin?

Marjorie McAtee

Tetanus immunoglobulin is an injectable drug that can help prevent tetanus infection in those who may have been exposed to the bacteria that cause tetanus. The bacteria responsible for tetanus are usually present in the soil, and anyone who has suffered a wound, especially a puncture wound, may be at risk for contracting tetanus. The tetanus vaccine has benefited many people, but those who have never been vaccinated, or who haven't received a booster shot in the past ten years, may be able to contract tetanus. Tetanus immunoglobulin is not a vaccine, but it can help prevent tetanus infection in those who lack immunity, and may have been exposed. Tetanus immunoglobulin is usually manufactured using the blood plasma of donors who are immune to tetanus.

Victims who have sustained puncture wounds may be at risk for contracting tetanus.
Victims who have sustained puncture wounds may be at risk for contracting tetanus.

Tetanus vaccines usually contain some amount of the disease-causing toxins produced by tetanus bacteria. Introducing these toxins into the body via vaccine can allow the body's immune system to develop antibodies against the bacteria, which usually provides immunity. Tetanus immunoglobulin is normally manufactured from the blood plasma of those who are immune to tetanus infection, and it already contains the necessary antibodies against tetanus.

Difficulty swallowing may be a symptom of tetanus.
Difficulty swallowing may be a symptom of tetanus.

Because tetanus immunoglobulin contains a dose of antibodies against tetanus, it can be used to provide instant immunity against tetanus in high-risk persons who may have been exposed. Vaccines generally aren't useful for those who've already been exposed, because the body may need many months to develop the necessary antibodies. Unlike vaccines, however, tetanus immunoglobulin does not generally provide any long-lasting protection against tetanus. For long-lasting protection, a tetanus vaccine is usually necessary.

A syringe and two vials of tetanus vaccine.
A syringe and two vials of tetanus vaccine.

Tetanus, also sometimes called lockjaw, is a bacterial disease. It usually acts on the nervous system to cause muscle contractions, often in the muscles of the jaw, head, and neck. Though tetanus can be deadly, it usually doesn't occur in developed countries, where vaccines are often available. It is still considered a threat worldwide, however, as tetanus strikes about one million people a year, mostly in developing nations.

Tetanus immunoglobulin may be manufactured from the blood plasma of donors who are immune to tetanus.
Tetanus immunoglobulin may be manufactured from the blood plasma of donors who are immune to tetanus.

Though vaccines against the tetanus bacteria are effective, booster shots must be given every ten years to help them maintain their effectiveness. Those who haven't received a vaccine, or who have failed to follow an appropriate tetanus vaccine schedule, may be at risk for contracting tetanus. The bacteria that cause tetanus generally live in the soil, and can enter the body through open wounds. They often enter the body through puncture wounds.

Booster shots must be given every 10 years to help tetanus vaccines maintain their effectiveness.
Booster shots must be given every 10 years to help tetanus vaccines maintain their effectiveness.

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