The tetanospasmin is a neurotoxin synthesised by some strains of C. tetani. It is the factor causing tetanus, but what is its role for the bacteria itself?

I do not believe the main objective of C. tetani is to harm people. I believe that any organism that wastes resources for purposes not related to its reproduction or preservation is being wiped out by the evolution.

As tetanospasmin is encoded by a plasmid gene, it should be pretty easy ro get rid of and there are strains of C. tetani lacking the gene. As protein synthesis costs resourcess, I guess there is some advantage from the neurotoxin synthesis - otherwise it would be a searious handicap, leading to competitive exclusion of tetanospasmin positive strains.

  • $\begingroup$ It's an opportunistic and generalist bacterium, existing in soil, digestive systems it's probably everywhere. It's related to Clostridium botulinum which ialso makes one of the most powerful toxins know, and the two may have similar ecology and purpose. I know botulin can in bee honey enough for old honey to be dangerous to babies, which gives an idea of habitats. There's some info on tetani ecology on the web, i don't know precisely. The toxins it produces may be harmful to humans as a side effect of it's more common habitat where it needs to establish an ecosystem and defend itself. $\endgroup$ Oct 8 '19 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ This paper suggests that botulin, from a close cousin bacteria of tetani, has an unkown mode of evolution: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6357194 $\endgroup$ Oct 8 '19 at 11:55

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