The key difference between tetanus and sepsis is that tetanus is a serious bacterial infection in the nervous system caused by Clostridium tetani, while sepsis is a life-threatening reaction of the immune system to an infection that causes multiple organ and tissue failure.
A bacterium is a single-cell organism. It can survive on its own. Bacteria can be commonly found inside and outside of the human body. Many bacteria can be especially found in the gut of humans. Most bacteria are not harmful. But some cause infections that can affect the throat, lungs, skin, bowel, nervous system, blood, and many other parts of the body. These bacterial infections include strep throat, ear infection, whooping cough, tetanus, septicemia, urinary tract infection, etc. Tetanus is an infection mainly affecting the nervous system by the neurotoxin produced by a bacterium. Sepsis is a life-threatening complication of an infection.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Tetanus
3. What is Sepsis
4. Similarities – Tetanus and Sepsis
5. Tetanus vs Sepsis in Tabular Form
6. Summary – Tetanus vs Sepsis
What is Tetanus?
Tetanus, or lockjaw disease, is a serious disease caused by Clostridium tetani which is a neurotoxin-producing bacterium. It specifically affects the nervous system of the human body. This bacterium mainly exists in the environment, including soil, dust, and manure. When people have wounds or cuts on their skin, this bacterium enters the human body through direct contact with objects contaminated with the tetanus bacterium. Once they enter the body, they produce toxins that affect the nervous system, causing very painful muscle contractions. Tetanus can affect the whole body. Ultimately, tetanus can be fatal due to serious breathing difficulties. In the United States, approximately 30 tetanus cases are reported per year. Tetanus is not transmitted from person to person.
The signs and symptoms of tetanus are painful muscle spasms and stiffness, immovable muscles in the jaw, tension of muscles around the lips, persistent grin, painful spasms and rigidity in the muscles of the neck, difficulty in swallowing, rigidity in the abdominal muscles, high or low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, fever and extreme sweating. Physical examination, medical history, vaccination history, and laboratory tests are some of the several options for diagnosing tetanus. Different types of treatments are available for tetanus, and among them, wound care, medications such as antitoxin, sedatives, vaccination, antibiotics, other drugs like morphine, supportive therapy such as breathing assistance and feeding tube, and lifestyle/home remedies are major treatments.
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is an extreme response to an infection. In other words, it is a serious and rare complication of an infection. It occurs as a result of the immune system responding dramatically to an infection. The immune system overreacts to the infection and starts damaging the body’s own organs and tissues. It can damage multiple organs in the body. Sepsis can be a life-threatening condition. Therefore, it is a medical emergency. The major cause of sepsis is septicemia, which is a bacterial infection in the blood. Septicemia is mainly caused by bacteria such as Staphylococci, Streptococcus pyogenes, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Klebsiella. Sepsis can lead to septic shock, which refers to persistent low blood pressure or hypotension. As a result, organs do not receive oxygen.
The common symptoms of sepsis are loss of consciousness, severe breathlessness, high temperature, a change in mental state, slurred speech, cold, clammy and pale skin, a fast heartbeat rate, fast breathing, chills and shivering, severe muscle pain, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Sepsis can be diagnosed through blood tests, urine or stool tests, wound culture, respiratory secreting tests, and imaging tests like X-ray, ultrasound, and CT-scan. Furthermore, treatment options for sepsis may include intravenous antibiotics, intravenous fluid, vasopressors, supportive care (breathing support and dialysis), and surgery to remove pus (abscesses) and dead tissues (gangrene).
What are the Similarities Between Tetanus and Sepsis?
- Tetanus and sepsis are two serious complications that can be life-threatening.
- Both conditions can be caused by gram-positive bacteria.
- They can be diagnosed through laboratory culturing tests.
- They are mainly treated by giving antibiotics.
What is the Difference Between Tetanus and Sepsis?
Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection that specifically affects the nervous system in the human body, while sepsis is a serious complication of an infection in the body. Thus, this is the key difference between tetanus and sepsis. Furthermore, tetanus is caused by Clostridium tetani. On the other hand, sepsis is mainly caused by septicemia, which is a bacterial infection in the blood caused by bacteria such as Staphylococci, Streptococcus pyogenes, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Klebsiella. Therefore, this is also a difference between tetanus and sepsis.
The below infographic presents the differences between tetanus and sepsis in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Tetanus vs Sepsis
Tetanus and septicemia are life-threatening, very deadly diseases. Tetanus is caused by a neurotoxin-producing bacterium and it specifically affects the nervous system in the human body. Sepsis is a serious complication developed against an infection. In sepsis, the immune system overreacts to an infection, causing damage to multiple organs and tissues in the body. Septicemia is considered the main cause of sepsis. So, this summarizes the difference between tetanus and sepsis.
1. “Sepsis.” NHS Inform.
2. “Tetanus Disease (Lockjaw).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 Aug. 2022.
1. “Clostridium Tetani” By Kholmes16 – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Sepsis-Mikrothomben2” By Emergency doc – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
Leave a Reply