What Immunity to COVID-19 Really Means - Scientific American

It is less clear what those antibody tests mean for real life, however, because immunity functions on a continuum. With some pathogens, such as the varicella-zoster virus (which causes chicken pox), infection confers near-universal, long-lasting resistance. Natural infection with Clostridium tetani, the bacterium that causes tetanus, on the other hand, offers no protection—and even people getting vaccinated for it require regular booster shots. On the extreme end of this spectrum, individuals infected with HIV often have large amounts of antibodies that do nothing to prevent or clear the disease.

Clostridium Tetani - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf

It should be noted that infection with C. tetani does not provide immunity, and thus, all patients with the diagnosis of tetanus should receive immunization immediately with three doses of tetanus and diphtheria toxoid.

  • $\begingroup$ What research have you done to try to answer this question yourself? The top hit when I searched with "Clostridium-tetani immunity" was this book chapter ... $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Apr 10, 2020 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ @tyersome That abstract doesn't answer my question? That book chapter is pay-walled. $\endgroup$
    – user4466
    Apr 10, 2020 at 22:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Interestingly if I do the search I suggested and click on the link to that article I can see a preview of the first two pages, but if I go directly following the link I can't see it either ... $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Apr 12, 2020 at 17:38

1 Answer 1


There is a big difference with tetanus compared with other infections. The amount of toxin that produces tetany is extremely tiny. Even a small infection that the immune system has yet to react to can be lethal. To produce a long-lasting response against the bacterium would require a lethal number of bacteria.

Vaccination with the toxoid results in antibodies against the toxin, not the bacteria.

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    $\begingroup$ The problem is different: Tetanus toxin is so supertoxic that the amount needed to poison you is so small that this is not enough to trigger an immune response. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Apr 11, 2020 at 9:33

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