Abstract It is generally believed that no permanent neurological damage is found among survivors of tetanus neonatorum. Newborns dying shortly after the onset of tetanus also lack significant neurological abnormalities. In adults a variety of neuromuscular lesions have been reported; however, a uniform pathological picture is absent. We report a case of a newborn with severe tetanus in whom striking evidence of anterior horn neuronal damage was documented, causing permanent nonprogressive tetraplegia. We suggest that the mechanism responsible for this lesion involves the retrograde axoplasmic flow of tetanus toxin reaching the spinal cord via nerve endings in the infected umbilical cord stump.