Cannibalism: What Eating Human Being Does to the Body

Cannibalism is considered one of the darkest taboo in many cultures. But beyond the social stigma of eating fellow humans, there is a strange (and fascinating) danger associated with cannibalism.

In 1961, a young Australian medical researcher, Michael Alpers, headed to the highlands east of Papua New Guinea and inspired him to combine two passions for medicine and adventure. Here he began to investigate the mysterious situation that Forefolk had experienced. He lived in the mountains and had little contact with tribes who practiced cannibalism.

"The body was fed on out of love as well as appetite." Alpers wrote in one of his academic texts on Fore people.

They called this condition "kuru". Each year the Kuru will kill 200 people of the tribe. Beginning with the ability to work with tremors, the patient will completely lose physical function, depression, and often emotional instability. Sometimes it appears itself as a hysterical smile. When the word of the disease spread to the west, the press emotionally called it "funny death."

Fore people believed it was a terrible curse, but Alpers wanted to explain this riddle more scientifically. Interestingly, this condition did not appear to be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites. It was only women and children who were equally strangers.

This is what researchers have begun to wonder: Perhaps it is related to the consciousness of the cannibal customs. Only women and children who participated in the exercise were affected, as men dint eat the flesh.

In an interview with Cosmos Magazine in April 2016, Alpers said: "Controversy over cannibalism - I no longer use the term, but it was used at that time - it had a powerful impact.

"Why did women and children get sick? Because they were the practitioners - the man did not die but the little boys - because [Australian patrol officers] banned cannibalism You can also conclude that the disease has not spread vertically from the mother to the child. "

In 1966 Alpers and a team of other scientists began to notice that Kuru was caused by a virus infection, bacterial disease, or even other causes other than genetics. Actually kuru was caused by a mysterious agent called prion. This discovery opened the way for Baruch S Blumberg and D Carleton Gajdusek to write the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 1976 for their discovery of a new mechanism for the origin and diffusion of infectious diseases.

Prions are essentially twisted into normal proteins and turn into "darker sides." This infectious agent acquires the ability to become infectious by loss of function and conversion of other normal proteins to prions.

Some of the notorious diseases caused by prions are BSE, also known as "Mad Cow Disease" and its alternative Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, two degenerative brain diseases that are very similar to the Kuru. Mad cow disease is most likely the result of cattle eating recycled hair and brain tissue from other cattle as well as kuru.

Therefore, eating the human brain may not always be the best idea, even before all the blood-borne diseases can be contracted, for example  HIV and hepatitis to E. coli and Ebola. But here is where the story goes. A study published in Nature in 2015 found that people who regularly eaten the brain have resistance to prion diseases, a research helping scientists understands degenerative brain disease, dementia,mad cow disease, and  Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

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