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MRC Prion Unit
From fundamental research to prevention and cure


The Unit, in collaboration with our colleagues at the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, has been studying all patients with kuru. Although cannibalism stopped in the late 1950’s, a few individuals, who were infected as children, are still developing the disease. Studying these individuals can give us an estimate of what the longest incubation periods can be in humans and also genetic studies may tell us why these individuals have such long incubation periods (some over 50 years). We have also studied older individuals who we know were exposed to kuru, but who have remained healthy. These studies are casting light on what provides resistance to developing disease which may again be very helpful to understanding similar factors in variant CJD. We are immensely grateful to the Fore (the population group affected by kuru) for participating in this project and for many others in PNG for their support.


Further information:
  • Kuru field studies in Papua New Guinea