Kuru is a disease of the nervous system.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Kuru is a very rare disease. It is caused by an infectious protein (prion) found in contaminated human brain tissue.
Kuru is found among people from New Guinea who practiced a form of cannibalism in which they ate the brains of dead people as part of a funeral ritual. This practice stopped in 1960, but cases of kuru were reported for many years afterward because the disease has a long incubation period.
Kuru causes brain and nervous system changes similar to
The main risk factor for kuru is eating human brain tissue, which can contain the infectious particles.
Symptoms of kuru include:
Arm and leg pain
Coordination problems that become severe
- Difficulty walking (cerebellar
- Swallowing difficulty
- Tremors and muscle jerks (myoclonus)
Difficulty swallowing and being unable to feed oneself. This can lead to
The average time from exposure to symptoms (incubation period) is 10 to 13 years, but incubation periods of 50 years or even longer have been reported.
Signs and tests
A neurologic exam may show changes in coordination and walking ability.
There is no known treatment for kuru.
Death usually occurs within 1 year after the first sign of symptoms.
Calling your health care provider
See your health care provider if you have any walking, swallowing, or coordination problems. Kuru is extremely rare. Your doctor will rule out other neurologic diseases.