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The Trembling Mountain: A Personal Account…

The Trembling Mountain: A Personal Account of Kuru, Cannibals, and Mad Cow…

by Robert Klitzman

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A chilling analysis of why the New Guinea cannibals won't stop eating brains despite the spread of kuru (known in the West as mad cow disease). A lot of the author's memoirs of his travels in New Guinea and the people he meets make for some livelier content. ( )
  aulsmith | Dec 9, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 030645792X, Hardcover)

The key word here is personal. Physician Robert Klitzman tells us his life story and humanizes what could easily have been a tabloid-size horror story of Stone Age cannibals and rotten-brained cows. Vivid portraits of the men and women he helped and worked with lift this book above mere sensationalism, showing one people's tragedy in the hopes that others can be averted.

Kuru is a fatal disease formerly epidemic among the Fore people of New Guinea, with symptoms including involuntary laughing, dementia, and loss of motor control. Traced to their ritual cannibalism, it was found to be caused by nonliving crystal-like proteins in the brain. Klitzman traveled to New Guinea before attending medical school to work with these people and quickly learned how little Western medicine could do for the afflicted--he could only make their deaths as comfortable as possible. His despair is palpable.

Fortunately, most Fore have been convinced to give up the most dangerous of their ancestral practices, and the disease has largely abated. But mad cow disease (and others like it), caused by the same class of protein as kuru, remains a threat to Westerners--a threat Klitzman would rather we not face. His very personal story forces us as readers to examine our own lives and our own ancestral practices, perhaps to make some changes ourselves. --Rob Lightner

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:20 -0400)

Kuru, like Mad Cow disease, is caused by a rare, infectious crystal protein that invades and colonizes human cells, destroying the nervous system of its victims. There is no known cure. It flourished in one of the remotest places on earth, Papua New Guinea, among the Fore, a people living in the Stone Age, who until recently practiced ritual cannibalism, consuming the brains of their forebears during funerary feasts. Robert Klitzman helped establish the links between these rituals and kuru. What he discovered has provided keys to understanding the mysterious Mad Cow Disease, which may become the world's next major epidemic. Robert Klitzman was 21 years old when he was invited by the Nobel prize-winning scientist Dr. Carleton Gajdusek, then at the National Institutes of Health, to conduct original research on kuru. Seizing the chance to travel to the other end of the world, Klitzman embarked on an adventure that would change his life.… (more)

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