Tetanus toxoid vaccine: Elimination of neonatal tetanus in selected states of India

Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics(formerly Human Vaccines)
Volume 8, Issue 10  October 2012

Tetanus toxoid vaccine: Elimination of neonatal tetanus in selected states of India
Ramesh Verma and Pardeep Khanna

Tetanus is caused by a neurotoxin produced by Clostridium tetani (C. tetani), a spore-forming bacterium. Infection begins when tetanus spores are introduced into damaged tissue. Tetanus is characterized by muscle rigidity and painful muscle spasms caused by tetanus toxin’s blockade of inhibitory neurons that normally oppose and modulate the action of excitatory motor neurons. Maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) are caused by unhygienic methods of delivery, abortion, or umbilical-cord care. Maternal and neonatal tetanus are both forms of generalized tetanus and have similar clinical courses. About 90% of neonates with tetanus develop symptoms in the first 3–14 d of life, mostly on days 6–8, distinguishing neonatal tetanus from other causes of neonatal mortality which typically occur during the first two days of life. Overall case fatality rates for patients admitted to the hospital with neonatal tetanus in developing countries are 8–50%, while the fatality rate can be as high as 100% without hospital care. Tetanus toxoid (TT) vaccination of pregnant women to prevent neonatal tetanus was included in WHO’s Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) a few years after its inception in 1974. In 2000, WHO, UNICEF, and UNFPA formed a partnership to relaunch efforts toward this goal, adding the elimination of maternal tetanus as a program objective, and setting a new target date of 2005. By February 2007, 40 countries had implemented tetanus vaccination campaigns in high-risk areas, targeting more than 94 million women, and protecting more than 70 million subjects with at least two doses of TT. In 2011, 653 NT cases were reported in India compared with 9313 in 1990. As of February 2012, 25 countries and 15 States and Union Territories of India, all of Ethiopia except Somaliland, and almost 29 of 34 provinces in Indonesia have been validated to have eliminated MNT.