Kuru is a very rare, incurable neurodegenerative disorder that was formerly common among the Fore people of Papua New Guinea. Kuru is caused by the transmission of abnormally folded prion proteins, which leads to symptoms such as tremors, loss of coordination, and neurodegeneration.
The term kuru derives from the Fore word kuria or guria (“to shake”), due to the body tremors that are a classic symptom of the disease and kúru itself means “trembling”. It is also known as the “laughing sickness” due to the pathologic bursts of laughter which are a symptom of the disease. It is now widely accepted that kuru was transmitted among members of the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea via funerary cannibalism. Deceased family members were traditionally cooked and eaten, which was thought to help free the spirit of the dead. Women and children usually consumed the brain, the organ in which infectious prions were most concentrated, thus allowing for transmission of kuru. The disease was therefore more prevalent among women and children. (source)
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