It is usually exciting to learn and write in this amazing community, bringing the lessons learned over here and reading other people's posts gives me so much joy and excitement. In today's post dear friends, I will be sharing about KURU, I don't know if you have heard about it before, but we are going to be unveiling so much about it in this article.
Kuru belongs to the class of infectious diseases known as, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), it is also called prion diseases. It is a rare and severe brain disorder that occurred at epidemic levels from the 1950s-the 1960s, it happened amongst the fore people in the highlands of New Guinea, the disease occurred back then as a result of the practice of ritualistic cannibalism among the fore, what they did was that relatives consumed the tissues (including the brain) of deceased family members. Brain tissue from humans was highly infectious and when consumed transmitted the kuru disease from one person to another, the disease was transmitted either through contact with open sores or by eating, Kuru means shivering, or trembling. (can you even imagine such an act?) The practice stopped in the year 1960, but even after many years, cases of kuru were still reported years after that because the disease has a long incubation period.
This kuru causes brain and nervous system changes that are similar to Creutzfeldt-jakob disease which is a similar disease that appears in cows, it is also called mad cow disease. The disease is characterized by some symptoms, they include; muscle twitching, loss of coordination, trouble waking, involuntary movements, mood, and behavioral changes, inability to eat properly, and dementia. There is no known cure for kuru and it is often fatal within that one year of contraction.
With the infection of kuru in humans, there are three stages to it, since the symptoms are common, one could consider it normal until a more severe disease takes over.
The first stage is when the infected person exhibits loss of bodily control, at this stage they may find it difficult to maintain or balance a certain posture.
The second stage of the infection is called the sedentary stage, where the infected person finds it extremely difficult to walk, this stage is also accompanied by body tremors and unexplained involuntary jerks and movements starts to happen.
The third stage is when the infected person is incontinent, at this stage there is a loss of the ability to speak, behavioral changes and dementia are also attributes displayed at this point. Unlike other infections we have been learning about, kuru does not belong to a bacterial, fungi, or viral class, from the story I have shared about the origination earlier, it is clear where the infection springs forth from. The disease basically affects the cerebellum, which is part of the brain that is responsible for balance and coordination.
Abnormal proteins that are infectious, known as prions cause kuru, bear in mind that, prions are not living organisms and they do not have the ability to reproduce. They are inanimate, misshapen proteins that get multiplied in the brain and form clumps, hydrating the processes of the typical brain. With the story about the spread of the infection, women and children were more infected as they were the primary participants in these rites.
This sounds so technical and one would wonder how this type of disease would be diagnosed,
How is kuru diagnosed?
There will be a neurological examination for the diagnosis of kuru, the doctor will medically examine, medical history, blood tests like thyroid, liver, kidney, folic acid level, and neurological function. Asides from neurological examination, there is also,
Electrodiagnostic test, which is used for the examination of electrical activities in the brain. Brain scans like MRI could be performed, but may not be helpful in the making of a definitive diagnosis.
The bad thing is, there is no successful treatment for kuru, in fact, prions that cause kuru cannot be destroyed completely as brains that have prions continue to stay infectious even after being preserved with formaldehyde for years. People who have kuru would require assistance to move and stand, which would eventually develop into the inability to swallow and eat and since there is no cure for it, it could result in a coma within 6-12 months after the experience of the initial symptoms, it is a highly terrible disease and the best way to prevent it is through the avoidance of exposure.
Kuru is very rare these days and can only be contacted when there is an ingestion of infected brain tissue or contact with kuru prions, incubation phase could last for as long as 30 years, the bottom line is, do not eat what you are not sure of, and be careful with open sores and wounds.