CAUTION! WALKING DEAD SPOILERS AHEAD!
Tonight, on The Walking Dead, our buddies from Terminus met their bloody end. And as I suspected last week, Bob was, indeed, bitten during the mission to the food bank. Bob revealed the bite when he was laugh-crying hysterically as the Termites were munching down on his leg, "Tainted meat!" he shouted.
I can't get into the science of the zombie virus and food contamination but we can talk about the very real biological danger cannibalism presents. Aside from being mortifying and heavy on the "ick" factor, our good friend, Science has proven cannibalism leads to degenerative neurological diseases and ultimately, death. In the 1950's and 60's, a Kuru epidemic swept through a tribe of 8,000 people in Papua New Guinea. 1,000 people died. Scientists attributed the disease to the tribe's regular practice of "ritualistic mortuary cannibalism."
What is Kuru disease? Here's a nice, science-y explanation from scienceblogs.com: "The word kuru means “shaking death” in the Fore language, and describes the characteristic symptoms of the disease. Because it affects mainly the cerebellum, a part of the brain involved in the co-ordination of movement, the first symptoms to manifest themselves in those infected with the disease would typically be an unsteady gait and tremors. As the disease progresses, victims become unable to stand or eat, and eventually die between 6-12 months after the symptoms first appear."
So, why would eating human flesh cause such devastating physiological problems? According to Andy Ellington at the University of Texas at Austin, part of it has to do with these little guys called prions. "Prions are interesting because they’re sort of the exception that proves the rule of DNA. That is, while DNA replicates sequence, prions replicate conformation. Prions are peptides or proteins that assume a particular conformation. When a prion comes in contact with a similar protein that is not shaped the same the prion forces the protein to assume its conformation, and they aggregate together in a tight knit architecture known as an amyloid. This is the same sort of amyloid that occurs in the very similar prion disease Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (CJD) and in Alzheimer’s. So, you can sort of think of prions as the first domino that initiates a cascade of conformational events that leads to a big, tangled mess in your brain. Not good."
Below is a picture of brain tissue on a microscopic scale. The damage is obvious.
Remember several years ago in the UK there was an outbreak of something called "Mad Cow Disease?" Yeah...same thing. In that case, the cows became ill because they were fed OTHER COWS in their feed. And then people became ill and died because those cows were slaughtered and turned into burgers. The cows suffered from the exact same symptoms as the human members of the tribe in Papua New Guinea half-way around the world.
It would seem nature is sending us a very, very clear message: Cannibalism = bad. So, although Gareth and his crew met a brutal death at the hands of Rick and his group, the Terminus people had already doomed themselves to a much slower, debilitating end. In a way, what Rick did was a mercy.
So, remember, kids... no matter how bad things get in the zombie apocalypse... just eat a squirrel.