Kuru: The Laughing Disease

One of the rarest diseases in the world is Kuru, the laughing sickness. Find out from this article how does it start. Beware, this is a very sensitive story…

Kuru is an incurable degenerative neurological disorder (brain disease) that is a type of contagious spongiform encephalopathy, caused by a prion found in humans.  The condition “kuru” comes from the preface “kuria/guria”, ‘to shake’., a relation to the body tremors that are a classic symptom of the disease; it is also recognized among the Fore as the laughing sickness due to the pathologic bursts of laughter people would display when afflicted with the disease. It is now widely consented that Kuru embodied transmitted among extremities of the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea via cannibalism.

Kuru was first noted in native peoples in the early part of the 1900s. It was in the 1950s that the full extent of the disease was realized, after it had reached large infection rates in the South Fore of the Okapa Subdistrict.

A particular group partook in ritual acts of mortuary cannibalism, which behaviour was later determined to be responsible for the epidemic transmission of the disease.

Among people from New Guinea, who practiced a form of cannibalism in which the brains of dead relatives were eaten as part of a funeral ritual. Kuru causes neurodegenerative changes similar to another prion disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which occurs sporadically around the world and for which risk factors are unknown.

In addition, similar prion diseases appear in sheep as scrapie, mink as encephalopathy, and in cows as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) (”mad cow disease”). The main risk factor for the development of kuru is eating human brain tissue, which can contain the infectious particles.

Symptoms of kuru include:

    Arm and leg pain

    Coordination problems that becomes severe

    Difficulty walking (cerebellar ataxia)


    Swallowing difficulty

    Tremors and muscle jerks (myoclonus)

The average time from exposure to symptoms (incubation period) is 10 to 13 years, but incubation periods of 30 years or even longer have been reported.

The incubation period (the time it takes until symptoms develop) for this disease can be up to 30 years or longer. Death, however, usually occurs within a year after the onset of symptoms.

There were no treatments that could control or cure kuru, other than discouraging the practice of cannibalism. Death usually occurs within 1 year after the first sign of symptoms.

Call your health care provider if you have any walking, swallowing, or coordination problems. Kuru is extremely rare. Your doctor will rule out other neurological diseases.


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  1. I had never heard of this great post

  2. This is the first time I am seeing this one

  3. Nice Info. Thank You.

  4. The Laughing Disease is awesome

  5. Good work.

  6. It’s new to me. Thanks for sharing

  7. Hey, this is terrible

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