Kuru is a neuro-degenerative disorder that is caused by misfolded proteins called prions. These prions build up in the body and cause other healthy proteins to misfold and become prion, this eventually leads to loss of motor function, nervous system problems and eventually death. The origin of kuru stems in many cultures (including Syria) from cannibalism. Ingesting human tissue increases the amount of prions in the human body at an exponential rate causing the onset of the disease. Kuru resurfaced in the Muslim community recently among Syrian rebels who were rumored to be eating the hearts of victims, 2 of these rebels were then hospitalized and transferred to Germany to be treated for the disease signifying the emergence of the disease in Syria. In many cultures other than Syria it is common practice to eat the brain tissue of dead relatives as a sign of respect, causing the disease among women and children, men did not partake in this ritual so they were generally unaffected. Currently there is no government action being placed to stop the practices that caused the initial emergence of this disease, however many state that the practices of eating the enemy’s hearts have stopped after the first two men were hospitalized (Cannabalism and Kuru in Syria, 2014). In an article by Shirley Lindenbaum, she attempts to clarify the history, origin and medical relevance of the disease Kuru. She does this by incorporating current medical research with anthropological studies to examine political, social and domestic issues involved with the disease. She also describes the specfic tribes and cultures that are plagued by the disease and what she feels to be the best methods to preventing the onset of kuru and how to properly educate the people being affected to reduce the prevalence of the disease.
“Cannibalism and Kuru in Syria?” Examiner.com. Accessed August 8, 2014.
Lindenbaum, Shirley. “Abstract.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. November 27, 2008. Accessed August 8, 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2735506/.