Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Redux: Kuru

29 Apr

BrainSections

Reason: Kuru is a prion disease just like mad cow, Creutzfeldt-Jacob and fatal familial insomnia.  But it is much, much weirder. Why? Because its roots lie neither in genetics nor in eating beef from cows-that-ate-scrapie-contaminated-sheep, but in cannibalism.

Western physicians in the 1950’s studied Kuru in the Fore communities of Papua New Guinea, whose rituals dictated that family members eat the remains of newly deceased loved ones.  Once cannibalistic practices came to a halt the epidemic began to slow, though a few cases remain, with two deaths from Kuru between 2003 and 2008.  Thankfully, there is no evidence of vertical transmission, so unless children eat their mothers’ remains they should be safe.

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One Response to “Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Redux: Kuru”

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  1. Live with an agenda | A Friend to Yourself - May 7, 2013

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