Extract from: Tetanus by Dr Alec Burton, ND, DO, DC. Republished in The Hygienist, BNHS, Autumn 1995.  (source—The Informed Parent 2/2003)

It is popularly believed that tetanus is caused by a germ, clostridium tetani, which gains entry to the tissues through a wound. That is, tetanus results from an "infected" injury which may be of a minor nature. "Pathology" edited by Dr Anderson, 5th edition, 1966, states: "The site of local infection may be quite inconspicuous, and in an appreciable number of cases it cannot be demonstrated at all." How virulent is the germ? Just how does it damage the tissues and cause tetanus? The clostridium tetani is relatively innocuous but it elaborates a certain toxin, tetanospasmin, the effects of which are hard to determine. Drs. Cecil and Loeb, in their Textbook of Medicine, say "Tetanus toxin fails to produce any recognisable pathological lesions in the tissues it affects, nor do any specific changes occur at the site of infection by the clostridium tetani." But in "Pathology" a different view is expressed. "Tetanus is primarily a disease of nervous tissue, the result of injury by tetanus toxin."

The tetanus bacterium is ubiquitous. It is not here today gone tomorrow. It is found on the surface of the body, in the mouth, in the gastro-intestinal tract, in house dust and clothing. It occurs extensively in cultivated soils. In spite of the ubiquity of the so-called cause, the incidence of tetanus is significantly low.

"The disease proper is unquestionably caused by the tetanus toxin......" state Drs Cecil and Loeb, and then they proceed to tell us "....but the mechanisms whereby it is absorbed and produces its effects are still largely unknown." Yet we read a little later that "The mode of action of the tetanus toxin is entirely unknown." Is it "largely" or "entirely" unknown? Is it "questionably" or "unquestionably" caused by the tetanus toxin? How confused these authors are is clearly demonstrated by their self-contradictions and uncertainty. Such comments as "led to the theory," "it was assumed," "it was also assumed," "additional support for both points of view," and "convincingly shown the probable correctness of the first theory" all tend to confirm that they do not know the cause of tetanus.

The idea of a specific cause dies hard. It is so easy to believe that a germ or a virus has "invaded" the tissues and for this reason we are sick. It is plausible and at least saves us the trouble of thinking. Louis Pasteur was the architect of the "Germ Theory" but he soon realised that his theory raised more problems than it solved. When he announced, after his early enthusiasm had matured. "The soil is all" no one was interested in what he had to say, it was not commercially exploitable.

Let us carefully consider some of the facts reported in the medical literature in 1920, Sir Leonard Hill said in a report to the Medical Research Committee, "Tetanus and gas gangrene bacilli washed clean and injected are innocuous." In 'A System of Bacteriology' Vol III, page 307, Drs Bosanquet and Eyre say "The bacilli are in pure culture incapable of vegetating in viro," ie of multiplying in the body. Furthermore, in the Official History of the War, Pathology 1923, it is stated "Tetanus bacilli have been found in 20% of war wounds although no symptoms of tetanus were present, " and "in 50% of undoubted tetanus cases the bacilli have been undiscoverable." In the same volume also appears clostridium tetani has been "cultivated from the wound of a man showing no evidence of tetanus, 882 days after it had been inflicted," and "it has been realised during the war that the tetanus bacillus or its spores may be present in vast numbers of wounds without producing tetanus."

We may deduce from the above facts that we have, as the cause of tetanus, a bacterium which is (a) harmless in pure culture (b) incapable of multiplying in the body (c) absent in 50% of cases of undoubted tetanus (d) present in 20% of cases where no tetanus symptoms appeared and often remaining in the body for months or years without producing symptoms. This is certainly a peculiar cause.

It is thought that whilst the bacteria themselves are somewhat feeble, their spores may remain dormant in the tissues for lengthy periods. If this is so, what are the factors which enable the spores to develop into bacteria and elaborate their toxins? What causes them to become active? Why do they remain dormant for long periods? As yet the answers to these questions are not forthcoming. They could supply the answer to the cause of the disease, in fact, all disease, for these questions obviously concern the host rather than the bacteria, and it is to the host that we must look for causes. Here we will find the cause of tetanus, not in some microscopic piece of protoplasm which we endow with almost omnipotent properties.   Bacterial diseases, so-called, have a biochemical basis. The tetanus bacteria may be a factor in tetanus. The toxin may be involved in some way but that these are fundamental causes is nonsense, otherwise the disease would be more common, in view of the fact that the bacteria is so frequently found on and in our bodies.

Tetanus is a rare disease considering the probable number of wounds which must be "infected" with the germ, yet it is sufficiently serious to necessitate the employment of preventative measures. Medically, it is claimed that an anti­toxin serum is successful in preventing tetanus and is helpful in treating the disease. Hygienists contravert this popular dogma that disease may be prevented or "cured" by the introduction of foreign organic substances into the body, and I shall attempt to show that the anti-toxin serum and toxoid employed to prevent and treat tetanus are of no value.

Horse serum (clear part of blood) is used against tetanus and has the reputation of producing "anaphylactic reactions," more commonly than the other sera. The "preventative" toxoid consists of cultured and killed "causal" germs. Do these "immunising" agents prevent the development of tetanus? Do they have any influence upon the disease once symptoms are evident? Is there any statistical evidence to show that the incidence of the disease is influenced by the employment of anti-toxin or toxoid?

The following is taken from the Medical Press, Nov 3, 1948. "The not infrequent failure of tetanus anti-toxin prophylactically is indicated by the fact that deaths from tetanus occur in 7% of civilian cases and 50% of military cases, in spite of its use." From the Medical History of the Second World War, Medicine and Pathology, we note, "It is disappointing to find that the case mortality is the same as in 1914-18. There is still no convincing evidence that anti-tetanic serum possesses curative value." Many more such statements from strictly "orthodox" sources could be quoted to consolidate our claim that the serum is incapable of affording any protection against tetanus. However, we must now turn to another important aspect concerning the employment of the serum.

Is there any danger associated with the injection of sera, and if there is, does any test exist which can show the probability of the development of "allergic reactions" in a particular patient. There can be serious effects following the introduction of tetanus anti-toxin into the body and there is no valid method of revealing the possibility of these side effects beforehand. Most textbooks on bacteriology point out the 'fallibility of the intradermal sensitivity test." The so-called allergic manifestations may appear immediately following the injection or they may be delayed for 1-14 days. Early "reactions" to toxoid include anaphylactic shock, unconsciousness and death. The later reactions may be chills, fever, urticaria, angioneurotic oedema, swollen lymph glands, pains in the muscles and joints. The anti-toxin may prove fatal but there is also another hazard associated with the dangerous yet dramatic practice of transfusing blood. Dr Meyer in his book "Side Effects of Drugs," has this to say: "Six cases of transfusion reactions occurred in 8 recipients with blood of O donors previously vaccinated with anti-toxins (diphtheria and tetanus anti-toxins)."

I think it is desirable and necessary to discuss briefly the problems of "hypersensitivity" which medical men are frequently mentioning. They refuse to blame the drugs, vaccine and sera for the "reactions" which follow their administration, but assert that the patient was "sensitive". All this means is that the drug was not to blame. The blame was the patient's. He or she was "sensitive". To a greater or lesser degree, we are all sensitive to poisons, that is, when poisons are taken into the body through any channel, an attempt is made to resist these poisons, to expel them\pr to neutralise them, to get rid of them, to destroy them. In the process of neutralising, expelling and resisting the poisons acute symptoms are the actions of the body, not the drug or serum, actions of the body defending itself against the poison.

Finally what is the real cause of tetanus? How may it be prevented, and how may a patient recover once tetanus has developed? The real cause of tetanus is not a germ, but dirt and filth. The bacteria are harmless when placed into a surgically clean wound. Tetanus develops when drainage of a wound is checked and dirt is retained in the tissues. The bacilli do not circulate in the blood. They remain at the point of entry and produce toxins. One of these poisons, tetanospasmin, is one of the most dangerous poisons known to man which occasions vigorous activity in the nervous tissues. The other toxin, tetano-lycin, occasions a breakdown of the blood cells. If good drainage is facilitated from the beginning, tetanus will not result from a wound. If tetanus has developed, an incision should be made to afford drainage, removing the foreign matter, and once the wound is drained and cleaned, the bacteria will not be able to elaborate the powerful toxins which are poison in the body. Once the poisoning ceases, the patient will start to recover. The ability to combat, destroy and eliminate the toxins will depend on the health and vigour of the patient. The patient suffering from tetanus should be put to bed, permitted to rest, kept warm and fasting should be immediately instituted. They should receive all the salubrious hygienic influences and the fasting should be continued until all symptoms have disappeared. Wounds should never be permitted to become pent-up. Drainage must be afforded, and if this is done, there is no danger. Drugs, anti-toxins, are a hazard to health. The sick cannot be poisoned into good health.