If You Eat a Person Who Has an Infectious Disease, Will You Get the Disease Too?

I'm glad you asked! No, it's not creepy and I don't judge you at all. Neither does Matt Soniak of Mental Floss, who answered this burning question. From his response:

Malaria parasites can spread among mice through cannibalism and blood-drinking, and scientists think that the simian immunodeficiency virus and hepatitis spread among chimpanzees the same way. (However, none of this has been shown in humans, and such a study probably wouldn’t pass an ethics board anyway.) It’s also possible that people could pick up tapeworms through cannibalism.

However, the biggest health threat tied to cannibalism is prion diseases, a group of neurodegenerative disorders that are spread by eating contaminated meat. Prions are misfolded proteins that wreak havoc in healthy bodies by causing healthy proteins to change shape and convert even more proteins into prions. You wind up with a cascade of misshapen proteins that cause tissue damage and cell death, and eventually brain deterioration, loss of motor control and death. It’s nasty stuff, and the human brain, bone marrow, spinal cord and small intestine can all harbor prions, which aren’t easily killed denatured by cooking.


Link -via Geekosystem | Image: MGM

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Actually Margaret Mead was the first who showed that KJ disease (normally hereditary) was transferred to community members in Papua New Guinea when they ate the brain of a person who died from it. This transferred the prions and caused an accelerated form of the disease. It is easily transferred among mammals (mad cow) by feeding rudiments to them. It cannot be stopped by cooking since you would effectively destroy the nutritional value of the food if you cooked it well enough to destroy the protein. Prions do not break down in soil either and can be reintroduced up to decades later. So burying infected animals only serves to later contaminate others.
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I read about that story too.

Q: Does it have anything to do with unfenestrated (tight-junction) epithelial cells?

Q: If I snort human flesh infected with a disease am I more likely to get the disease?
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