OCT 20, 2016 11:52 AM PDT

The Perils of Eating a Human Brain

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

In the Fore tribe of Papua New Ginea, anthropologists noticed something unusual: women and children of the tribe seemed to be affected with a degenerative neurological disorder at exceedingly high rates. The disease is known as "kuru," and it manifests in physiological tremors and neurological degeneration that eventually leads to death.

With much investigative efforts, researchers found that the disease was being transmitted through prions - proteinaceous infectious particles that eventually create sponge-like holes in the brain. Prions are found in the highest concentration in the brain. Putting it together, the researchers linked the prions to the Fore women and children, who were traditionally served the brains of the deceased tribe members.

The incidence of kuru in the Fore tribe illustrates a poignant health risk for the case against human cannibalism (not that we needed any reason at all!).
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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