Kuru: The Science and The Sorcery

Australian scientist Michael Alpers dedicated over 50 years to researching Kuru, an obscure and incurable brain disease unique to the Fore people of New Guinea.

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Australian scientist Michael Alpers dedicated over 50 years to researching Kuru, an obscure and incurable brain disease unique to the Fore people of New Guinea. Kuru was once thought to be a psychosomatic illness, an infection, a genetic disorder, even a sorcerer’s curse, but Alpers’ findings pointed to cannibalism as the culprit. Yet a recent discovery has proven to be even more disturbing: the malady is linked to mad cow disease and its human equivalent, variant CJD. With a decades-long incubation period, could a larger outbreak be on its way?

 

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