The medical condition known as tetanus is due to a neurotoxin produced by Clostridium tetani (as discussed in last week’s column), and that requires infection with this bacterium.
Certain other rat poisons cause death by interfering with their neurological system, strychnine is an example of this type of poison.
When it does occur, it may be because of accidental ingestion (for example from illegal street drugs that may have been contaminated with it during preparation) or intentional ingestion (by a patient trying to commit suicide).
The muscle contractions may be treated with muscle relaxant medications, breathing may need to be supported (for example by intubating the patient), intravenous fluids/medications (such as sedatives) may be given, and/or other supportive care may be required.
This supportive care will hopefully buy time to allow the patient’s body to clear the strychnine, and when this is successful the patient will typically have a full recovery with no long-term sequelae.