I read kuru is a disease that people from Papua New Guinea suffered after they ate deceased relatives’ brains as a funeral practice.
What is it in a human brain that would give another human a disease by consuming it? Do all human brains have what makes people sick? Is it a virus, bacteria, or something else?
Kuru is a prion disease.
A prion is a a protein that turns other proteins into copies of itself.
The proteins that Kuru can work with are usually located in the brain.
When you eat that infected brain, it contains the Kuru prion, which then starts turning those proteins into more of the prion. Then you die.
So in conclusion, it’s something else, though if I had to place it, I’d say it’s close to a virus. It’s not really a living thing in many senses, but it reproduces itself.
The disease comes from improperly folded proteins called prions getting to the brain and destroying tissue. Every person has a small number of these accumulate over their lifetime but if you eat the brain of a closely related species or of your own you have a high probability of greatly increasing the number that you will accumulate.
All human, as well as ape and monkey brains have the chance of giving kuru to humans.
But this same disease can happen with any animal that eats their own kind. Mad Cow is the bovine equivalent of kuru, and it is possible that eating any animal with the equivalent disease can pass it on to a human.
You don’t get it from eating any human brain anymore than you get AIDS from just having sex with anybody.
You get it from someone who is already infected and the way you get it is via eating their brains.
Kuru is not a virus or bacteria but a prion diseases. Prions are proteins that are somehow folded the wrong way, the bad thing about them is that they make other proteins also fold themselves up in the wrong way.
Another disease like it is the mad-cow disease and the related Creutzfeld-Jakob disease.
The mad-cow likely cam about the same way kuru did, because we were feeding cows (who are normally mostly vegetarians) feed that contained among other things the ground up brains of other cows. This way one cow with the problem became many cows with the problem and by eating those cows and specifically their brains humans may have become infected.
Overall it is not a big problem as long as you don’t eat any brains of anything or at least not the brains of anything or anyone who might have acted a little strange.
Still it is healthiest to avoid cannibalism as much as possible.