UCL Division of Biosciences


Fatal kuru epidemic and migration in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea

22 March 2024

In the most comprehensive genetic study of the people living in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea to date, researchers from Papua New Guinea and the U.K. revealed the complex population structure and migration patterns of the communities in the region.

Kuru Migration - Papua New Guinea

The results, published in The American Journal of Human Genetics, lay the foundation for future research on the fatal disease kuru—a disease transmitted during traditional anthropophagic mortuary practices— that devastated the area in the 20th century.

“We navigated one of the most complex landscapes possible in terms of geographical, cultural and linguistic diversity and set the scene for future genetic epidemiological work,” said Liam Quinn, the paper’s first author at the University College London and University of Copenhagen.

Read the full findings in the American Journal of Human Genetics

Press release