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Kuru Workup

  • Author: Zartash Zafar Khan, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Pranatharthi Haran Chandrasekar, MBBS, MD  more...
Updated: Feb 17, 2016

Laboratory Studies

No laboratory studies are helpful in diagnosing kuru, except postmortem pathologic evaluation of CNS tissue.

Cerebrospinal fluid 14-3-3 protein, neuronal specific enolase (NSE), and S-100, although not specific for CJD, may be helpful diagnostically in the appropriate clinical context for the diagnosis of CJD.[31] No data suggest the usefulness of these markers in the diagnosis of kuru.

Identification of a distinctive combination of 129M/M genotype, kuru plaques, and intermediate-type PrPSc has been associated with acquired CJD.[32]


Imaging Studies

No imaging studies are helpful in diagnosing kuru.


Histologic Findings

Primary changes include vacuoles in nerve cell bodies, dendrites, and axons and reactive swelling and proliferation in astrocytes caused by neuronal damage.[10] Hematoxylin and eosin–stained sections show amyloid plaques. Gliosis and vacuolization are found throughout the gray matter without any well-defined pattern and involve, most consistently, the cerebellum, pons, thalamus, basal ganglia, and the anterior horns of the spinal cord.[33, 20] Plaques positive for periodic acid-Schiff reagent are seen frequently in the granular and molecular layers of the cerebellum of individuals with kuru and in some cases of scrapie.[10]

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Zartash Zafar Khan, MD, FACP Infectious Disease Consultant

Zartash Zafar Khan, MD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, Infectious Diseases Society of America, International Society for Infectious Diseases

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Mary Buechler, MD Staff Physician, Emergency Center, Lawrence General Hospital

Mary Buechler, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Paul A Janson, MD Instructor, Tufts University School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Department of Emergency Medicine, Lawrence General Hospital

Paul A Janson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mark Martin Huycke, MD Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases Section, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center; Chief, Medical Service, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Oklahoma City

Mark Martin Huycke, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association for Cancer Research, American College of Physicians, American Federation for Medical Research, American Society for Microbiology, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Thomas M Kerkering, MD Chief of Infectious Diseases, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

Thomas M Kerkering, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Physicians, American Public Health Association, American Society for Microbiology, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Medical Society of Virginia, Wilderness Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Pranatharthi Haran Chandrasekar, MBBS, MD Professor, Chief of Infectious Disease, Program Director of Infectious Disease Fellowship, Department of Internal Medicine, Wayne State University School of Medicine

Pranatharthi Haran Chandrasekar, MBBS, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, American Society for Microbiology, International Immunocompromised Host Society, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Rachel H Chung, MD Consulting Staff, Department of Family Practice, North Clinic, North Memorial Hospital

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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