Tetanus is a medical condition characterized by a prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibers. The primary symptoms are caused by tetanospasmin, a neurotoxin produced by the Gram-positive, rod-shaped, obligate anaerobic bacterium Clostridium tetani. Infection generally occurs through wound contamination and often involves a cut or deep puncture wound. As the infection progresses, muscle spasms develop in the jaw (thus the name 'lockjaw') and elsewhere in the body. Infection can be prevented by proper immunization and by post-exposure prophylaxis. Tetanus often begins with mild spasms in the jaw muscles (lockjaw). The spasms can also affect the chest, neck, back, and abdominal muscles. Back muscle spasms often cause arching, called opisthotonos. Sometimes the spasms affect muscles that help with breathing, which can lead to breathing problems.
Contributions by DO11.10, MarcoTolo, and Onco p53.