Kuru: Laughing Disease
Jennifer N. Trujillo
November 12, 2012
Kuru is a fatal, non-treatable prion disease. Consuming the diseased tissues will result in transfer of the disease. Kuru affects the brain and nervous tissue in humans and lays latent for a long period of time. Growing medical awareness has helped in the decline of the cycle of the disease.
According to Bidon, in 1954, a disease of impending death was reported by W. T. Brown in the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea in the Fore tribe. The Fore calls this disease Kuru, which in their language translated to “shiver, shaking, or trembling” (Gadjusek, 1996, pp. 6-33). It wasn’t until the late 1950s that research started because of the vast rate at which the infection had spread throughout South Fore of the Okapa Subdistrict. At a hospital that was built in 1961 specifically for Kuru patients, observation, and research, brain tissue and blood samples were taken and sent to Melbourne to study (Lindenbaum, 1979.)
Research by Daniel Carleton Gajdusek and Michael Alpers showed that tissue taken from an 11 year old girl and then injected into two chimpanzees can be transferred through infected bio material and it was able to cross a species barrier (Bidon, pp. 1-2) (Lindenbaum, 1979.) Causes
Kuru is a nervous system disease caused by prions. A prion is an abnormally folded protein and when it comes into contact with other proteins causes a chain reaction and spreads the folding to the other proteins. Prions get their name from proteinaceous infectious particle. Theses bundle of proteins are what is found in the brain tissue. The brain tissue dissolves and leaves holes that give it a sponge appearance (Tortora, Funke, & Case, 2010, pp. 392-393,629-631). It is transmitted though eating or contact with open wounds or sores from an infected person. Ingestion of the prions may be absorbed...