Cannibalism, Kuru, and Mad Cow Disease

19 Apr

This post may seem off the subject of chiropractic and a bit macabre as it deals with cannibalism, but it was the center of a discussion me and a friend had and I thought it would make an interesting post. I told him there was a certain disorder/disease that affected people when they ate too much human flesh. What I told him, in part to scare him and part in ignorance, that I had heard of tribes in Papa New Guinea that had practiced cannibalism. After eating too much human flesh their faces became distorted into horribly deviant laughing poses that were involuntary.

So we did some research (thank you wikipedia), apparently there is such a disease and it is called kuru, or the laughing sickness, or “shiver”. Symptoms include hysterical uncontrollable laughter, emaciation from malnutrition and mal-absorption, loss of balance, weakness, difficulty swallowing, and an indicative trembling that has been called “shiver”.  Researchers found that kuru affected only this small population of the Fore tribe and mostly the women and children. They find over the course of 25 years research that the disease is linked to Cruetz-feld Jacob disease (CJD is a progressive nuerologic disease for which there is no cure) and mad cow disease. Apparently this genetic mutation happens in the rarest of incidences. Like 1 in 20 million, for comparison autism which is on the rise because of the common use of vaccinations (which is a controversial topic that requires it’s own post which I will cover  in the future) is somewhere between 10-15 per 1000 people.

When the genetic mutation has occurred spontaeously in an individual, the next step in transmission of this non-viral, non-bacterial spongiform encephalopathy is for a member of the same race to ingest the brain and spinal cord where this “prion” (an incorrectly folded protein) causes properly folded proteins to become prions themselves thereby bypassing the need for self replication and Dna or Rna. It causes sponge-like holes in brain tissue that inflammates the brain. I likened it to an episode of the Smurfs I watched when I was a kid where all the smurfs were getting this weird disease transmitted by them biting another smurfs tail.

In the Fore tribe funerary practices dictated that the wife and children eat the deceased relatives, bones and all, including the spinal cord and brain. When these practices were discontinued, the “laughing sickness” as they called it disappeared. Interestingly tribesmen explained the disease through sorcery and that one with the condition had been the target of sorcery from another tribe and wars would ensue.

So the lesson here is that cannibalism is not just taboo for cultural reasons, but there are scientific biological consequences when one eats another of the same race. The real reason for the post is to point out the fact that mad cow disease can only be transmitted when a cow eats the brains and spinal cord of another cow who had contracted the disease either spontaneously or through similar cannibal practices. If mad cow disease is a result of cows being fed this mash up of other cows (see Meat and Bone Meal or MBM products) and there is a quantifiable disease that is characteristically the same as kuru and CJD why do we persist in feeding animals that we depend on diets that are not fit for their consumption.

For those who are interested there is a comprehensive documentary called: Kuru: The Science and the Sorcery. Interestingly enough, there was not one villager who said that human flesh did not taste good and many of them say that human flesh is sweet. There is nothing in the research that says they develop scary faces, but in the documentary you can see that the distortion on the victims faces are of pain and uncontrollable hysteria. The documentary is well done and far from a horror movie, though I told my friend it was scary just to think of it existing.

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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Health Restorations


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