Some Tick Bites May Trigger Meat Allergy

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Some Tick Bites May Trigger Meat Allergy

Post by RitaA » Wed 20 Jun 2012 19:29 ... ?hpt=hp_c2
Ticks causing mysterious meat allergy

By Olivia Smith, CNN
updated 10:25 AM EDT, Wed June 20, 2012

(CNN) -- Helen Olive had her first allergy attack 11 years ago. She had gone to bed only to wake up hours later because her neck felt as if it were on fire.

"It was terrible," said Olive, who is 42 and lives in North Carolina. "The sensation was all over my body and then I developed hives."

A slender woman with wavy, reddish-brown hair and blue eyes, Olive might appear perfectly healthy. But waking up in the middle of the night with uncontrollable itching and nausea became a common theme in her life.

She was driving her motorcycle around town with her husband on a hot summer day in 2008 when they decided to stop for a meal at a local restaurant. "I had a black and blue salad with beef tips," Olive said. "Later I had the same reaction except the Benadryl would not work."

As her symptoms continued to increase, she made an appointment with the Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center. Her blood test showed that she was very allergic to meat. Olive's doctor informed her that a meat allergy was "not common."

But two allergists at the University of Virginia have gathered data showing that the food allergy Olive has, known as galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or alpha-gal for short, is affecting more than 1,500 Americans. The researchers suspect there are many more unidentified cases.

"The answer to the allergy is sugar," said Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, who discovered the allergy with his junior colleague Dr. Scott Commins. They first published their findings in 2009.

Alpha-gal is essentially a bunch of sugars stuck together in the blood, which is in the meat of all non-primate mammals, including deer, cats and dogs. "We have seen anaphylaxis in France with horse and goat meat as well," Platts-Mills said.

What causes the allergy may be surprising.

All known patients who have alpha-gal have had at least one tick bite. Platts-Mills, who also suffers from alpha-gal, made the connection after receiving countless bites while hiking in the woods one August. As a result, his level of IgE, which measures the alpha-gal allergy in one's blood, went up several-hundred points. That is when Platts-Mills concluded there is some relation to the number of tick bites one receives and how allergic one may become to alpha-gal.

Platts-Mills and Commins said the allergic reaction is specifically related to the common lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum). These ticks cover various plains across the United States. An important distinction is that alpha-gal is not a disease like Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever -- it is an allergy.

"Presumably something happened with the ticks," said Platts-Mills. "It could possibly be a new tick spreading."

The doctors believe the allergy could more closely be related to bites that come from tick larva, or baby ticks.

"Perhaps there is an organism in the tick's saliva that makes a person allergic to the alpha-gal sugar in mammalian meat," Commins said.

For meat lovers, especially hunters, the simplest solution is to avoid ticks -- as if that's an easy thing to do.

And what if you've already been bitten? Olive doesn't fancy the idea of eating a steak with an epinephrine auto-injector, which treats life-threatening allergic reactions.

Allergist Dr. Erin McGintee who practices in the Hamptons has seen some dangerous cases of alpha-gal in New York, including a few patients who passed out in their bathrooms.

"Intellectually, it's such a cool allergy on so many levels," McGintee said. "It's a sugar, not a protein, and most food allergies occur in response to a protein antigen."

Alpha-gal is unique in that it is the first known case of delayed anaphylaxis, she said. While anaphylaxis normally occurs within minutes or seconds of eating a certain food, this is not the case with alpha-gal patients, who suffer anaphylactic shock anywhere from four to six hours after eating certain meats. Most who suffer from alpha-gal can attest that waking up in the middle of the night, not from a nightmare, but from anaphylaxis, is quite frightening.

Alpha-gal's reactions vary on a case-by-case basis, sometimes with a patient experiencing a severe reaction and other times nothing at all. Doctors advise that people who are exposed to lone star ticks should be aware of the allergy, especially if they live in the country, where it could take some time to reach a hospital.

Jaime Johnston, 62, has lived in parts of North and South Carolina, and had her first tick bite when she was 5. She was about 46 when she became severely allergic to meat. Like many others, she had alpha-gal before it was even named. It has taken her almost 20 years to understand that her meat allergy is connected to ticks. However, she did learn early on that certain meats were her enemy.

"No doctor has ever taken this claim seriously," Johnston said. Doctor's "would roll their eyes and tell me to go to an allergist.[/dolor] I've never done this because of the anticipated costs."

A trip to an allergist could cost a few hundred dollars without insurance.

While some daredevils may want to risk it and enjoy a juicy steak regardless of their alpha-gal allergy, the only true way to avoid an allergy attack is to avoid the food itself. "There is no current medication to treat food allergies," Commins said.

However, Commins did explain that if a person were to avoid tick bites for some time, he or she could become less allergic to meat.

"For those lucky few who have had their (IgE) levels fall, we try a meat challenge to 'clear' them to consume mammalian meat."

Yet be warned, additional bites could once again lead to anaphylactic shock. And to some, the meat challenge just doesn't seem worth it.

"I don't want to risk it," Olive said. "We have six acres and some of it is woods. Ticks are really unavoidable."

Camp Other posted this link to a similar article in his blog entry dated Saturday, July 23, 2011: ... 59f1aae82f

NC teen develops mysterious meat allergy

Jul 23, 2011 12:00am

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (AP) — About a year ago, 15-year-old Andrew Treadway of Currituck got a tick bite while camping near Charlottesville, Va.

The bite did not appear serious. When he returned to his Moyock home, his mom looked for the tell-tale bulls-eye rash indicating Lyme disease and the flulike symptoms from Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but all appeared normal.

Little did they know that the tick bite would later trigger an allergy to red meat. Today, the Treadways want others to know about the newly discovered allergy that puzzled their family for months.

Making the connection between the tick bite and the allergy was not easy. Several months after the tick bite, the teenager began complaining of unexplained stomach aches and migraines. Ann Treadway said she was baffled by what was causing the problem.

The real alarm came a little later when the family went camping with friends.

Andrew ate nachos for dinner and later played ultimate hide-and-seek with his friends. While hiding in the dark, he remembered putting his hand on something watery. Later, doctors would suspect it was poison ivy or poison oak.

At about 1 a.m., Andrew awoke to itching. He asked his parents to look at his back, which was covered in welts. His face and ears were swollen and lobster red, and his eyes were puffy.

His parents took him to the emergency room at Chesapeake General Hospital, Va., where he was treated immediately for anaphylaxis, an acute allergic reaction that can be fatal.

"They knew just looking at him, something was bad," said Ann Treadway.

At that point, the family had no clue what caused the allergic reaction and doctors surmised exposure to an outdoor plant was probably the trigger.

The next time, Andrew broke out in hives at a completely different setting. This time he was shopping with his family in New York's Times Square after having eaten at Olive Garden. A rash broke out on his neck and all over his back. The family treated him with Benadryl and Pepcid for his stomach ache.

After that episode, the family began to suspect he had a food allergy, possibly to cheese since Andrew had eaten cheese ravioli at the restaurant. They did not suspect a soup with sausage and beef broth had actually caused the reaction.

"While we were looking at one thing, it was actually another," Andrew recalled.

Andrew said he never remembered having an allergic reaction prior to the two outbreaks, although his parents said he had a reaction to pineapple as a child.

Never did the family even guess that the red meat was the cause. In fact, Andrew had eaten pork and beef often without any apparent effect.

After Andrew's third outbreak after he ate two helpings of meat loaf, emergency room doctors advised he see an allergist.

Allergist Ron Purcell at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, Va., said Andrew's case was the first he diagnosed, although he may have seen other cases earlier without knowing it. He learned about the newly identified red meat allergy related to tick bites a couple months before their visit.

"I may have seen it in the past and not known because it is a newly found connection," Purcell said.

Andrew said he didn't believe the doctor when he first suggested the idea.

Dr. Scott Commins of University of Virginia is credited with discovering the connection between tick bites and the red meat allergy only a couple years ago. Unlike Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the condition is not considered a disease. Rather, the tick's saliva is suspected of triggering an allergic reaction that results in hives or anaphylaxis.

For Andrew, the severe allergic reaction was triggered only when he ate heavy doses of red meat. Purcell said the triggers for other patients could be different. For example, one patient may be able to eat pork chops but not bacon, he explained.

"We are not always sure what the tipping point is," said Purcell.

Finding out how many North Carolina residents have been diagnosed with the problem is not easy.

Barry Engber, medical entomologist for the N.C. Division of Environmental Health, said the state keeps records on cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease, but has no figures for the newly discovered allergic reactions.

A regional allergy center in the Roanoke and Lynchburg, Va., area reported more than 200 cases in two years, according to an article in the Roanoke Times.

Engber said most likely only a small percentage of people bit by the ticks actually develop the allergy.

The tick suspected of causing the allergy — known as the Lone Star tick — is the most commonly found human-biting tick in eastern North Carolina, he said.

"If it was just the Lone Star tick that caused the allergy, everybody would have it," said Engber.

Purcell agreed that only a small number of people bitten by the tick will actually develop the allergy. He said patients who have other allergies are the most susceptible.

The discovery will be valuable in helping doctors and patients identify the often unknown causes for allergies, said Purcell. He believes he's already identified another case since Andrew was diagnosed.

The causes for about a fourth of severe allergic reactions are unknown, he said. The newly discovered allergy will be one more tool for doctors and patients to consider when searching for the cause.

"When you can put something like this together . and see what you can do to avoid it in the future, that's a win," said Purcell.

For Andrew, the mystery has been solved, although living with this newly found knowledge will not be easy.

He can still eat red meat in small quantities. He's been known to sneak a piece of prime rib on his plate at a buffet. But he limits himself to a bite or two before switching to chicken and fish. Aside from avoiding big servings of red meat, there is no cure.

Ann Treadway said there is a chance he may outgrow the allergy. Only time will tell.

"It's such a new thing, they just don't know," she said.

While they wait, she's hoping to spread the word to other families who may not know the answer to the recently unraveled medical mystery.
Last edited by RitaA on Mon 2 Jul 2012 20:54, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Some Tick Bites May Trigger Meat Allergy

Post by RitaA » Mon 2 Jul 2012 20:53 ... arnivores/
Fall 2011Research & Discovery

Ticked Off Carnivores

Tick bites likely cause allergy to red meat

Ticks are icky. They spread Lyme disease. And now it appears they might interfere with your ability to enjoy a hamburger. A team headed by Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, U.Va. professor and former president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, recently published findings that suggest that tick bites may cause allergic reactions to red meat. Dr. Platts-Mills says that tick saliva may trigger the human immune system to produce antibodies to a carbohydrate called alpha-gal, which is found in red meat.

Dr. Scott Commins, an assistant professor of medicine at U.Va. and lead author of the study, explains that an allergic reaction occurs when the body produces antibodies—meant to defend against harmful bacteria or toxins—against an otherwise benign substance, the allergen. When antibodies bind to the allergen, certain cells release histamine, which in turn causes symptoms such as swelling, hives and breathing problems.

The researchers screened hundreds of human blood samples from locations in the U.S., Africa and Central America for the antibodies against alpha-gal. Their findings? Meat allergies are more common in places where tick populations are on the rise. The team also studied people with the allergy in the laboratory setting. “We’re sure ticks can do this,” Dr. Platts-Mills told the Washington Post. “We’re not sure they’re the only cause.”

Unique to this particular allergy is that the reactions are delayed. Symptoms don’t appear until several hours after exposure, which can make them difficult to diagnose. “We have now performed this under observation, and there are no symptoms until after 3 to 4 hours,” said Dr. Commins. Dr. Platts-Mills and his colleagues’ next topics of study: Why are the allergic reactions so delayed? And why do only some people develop the problem?
There are currently 45 comments – most of them right on topic. Given the number of commenters, it seems that a red med allergy isn’t quite so rare after all.

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Re: Some Tick Bites May Trigger Meat Allergy

Post by Lorima » Wed 21 Nov 2012 15:24

Revived, on Science's web site: ... html?rss=1 
Ticked Off About a Growing Allergy to Meat
by Gretchen Cuda Kroen on 16 November 2012, 5:43 PM | 3 Comments

Tick bites have long been synonymous with bad news, responsible for transmitting diseases such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but this must be a carnivore or BBQ lover's worst nightmare. A growing body of research suggests that bites from a particular tick are causing an unusual allergic reaction to meat. At an allergy meeting last week, for example, a diagnostics lab presented evidence that the highest prevalence of the allergy is in the southeastern United States, where the tick primarily thrives. Yet American BBQ lovers and carnivores elsewhere may not rest easy; the allergy mysteriously afflicts people living in parts of the United States, even Hawaii, where the tick does not live.

The meat allergy, known as alpha-gal for a sugar carbohydrate found in beef, lamb, and pork, produces a hivelike rash—and, in some people, a dangerous anaphylactic reaction—roughly 4 hours after consuming meat. But unlike other common food allergies, the alpha-gal allergy has been found only in people who have been bitten by ticks—specifically the lone star tick, previously best known for causing a condition called southern tick-associated rash illness, the symptoms of which include rash, fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle pains. "You have to have a tick bite to then trigger the immune reaction," Stanley Fineman, an allergist and president of American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).


Allergy researcher Thomas Platts-Mills of the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville has been studying the alpha-gal reaction since 2002, when he began investigating an unusual sensitivity to the cancer drug cetuximab, which contains the same alpha-gal sugar as meat. Cancer patients who demonstrated an allergic reaction to the drug were nearly exclusive to the southeastern United States and were also found to have high levels of alpha-gal antibodies, Platts-Mills explains. Furthermore, some of them, along with other noncancer patients in the same region, also reported having severe allergic reactions after eating meat. Platts-Mills later published the relationship between alpha-gal antibodies and the cetuximab allergy in The New England Journal of Medicine.

But Platts-Mills only began to suspect the connection between the alpha-gal antibodies and the ticks after he was bitten by several ticks while hiking and contracted the allergy himself in 2007. His antibody levels jumped significantly after the tick bites, he found. In 2009, he and UVA colleague Scott Commins reported the link between alpha-gal and the meat allergy in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology—and suggested a possible link between the ticks and alpha-gal based on a more than 80% rate of reported tick bites among the patients before exhibiting symptoms.

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Re: Some Tick Bites May Trigger Meat Allergy

Post by Martian » Wed 26 Feb 2014 17:58

Source: ... star-tick/
Red meat allergies likely result of lone star tick

by Craig Boerner | Posted on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 — 2:00 AM

Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia Seeing Numerous Cases

Lone star tick bites are likely the cause of thousands of cases of severe red meat allergies that are plaguing patients in Southeastern states including Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia and spreading up the Eastern Seaboard along with the deer population.

Vanderbilt’s Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program (A.S.A.P.) clinic is seeing one or more new cases each week of patients allergic to the alpha-gal sugar present in red meat, according to Robert Valet, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine.

“It is not completely understood exactly how the allergy starts,” Valet said. “The thought is that the tick has the alpha-gal sugar in its gut and introduces it as part of the allergic bite and that causes the production of the allergy antibody that then cross-reacts to the meat,” he said.

Valet said the allergy can cause hives and swelling, as well as broader symptoms of anaphylaxis including vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, and a drop in blood pressure.

“I think it is something that certainly belongs among the most important food allergies, particularly in the Southeast,” he said. “Certainly these patients can present with every bit as severe of an allergy as someone who is allergic to peanuts.”

Alpha-gal patients can safely eat poultry such as chicken or turkey but red meats such as beef and pork, and even game like venison, will cause a reaction. Valet said some patients react to milk, even in relatively small amounts.

Persons with the allergy can go into a delayed anaphylactic shock four-six hours after eating red meat, so when Hendersonville resident September Norman woke up in the middle of the night with a swollen tongue and hives she wasn’t sure the source of her problem.

Norman and her husband were staying at Tennessee’s Fall Creek Falls State Park at the end of July, had played some golf and grilled rib eye steaks for dinner.

“At about midnight I woke up and was itching very bad, kind of like a rash,” she said. “About 2:30 a.m. I got up and my hands felt like they were on fire, like I was bitten by fire ants. I drank two bottles of water, sat on the sofa, and it wasn’t five minutes before I felt my tongue and lip swelling and told my husband that something was wrong. I could barely talk at that point my tongue was so thick. He turned on the lights and his eyes looked like saucers.”

They drove from the park toward the interstate to get a cell phone signal to call 911 and waited on the highway for emergency help to arrive.

“I was getting worse. My whole body was red and broken out in hives. I was staring out the window, saying ‘Please God, not here.’ I probably would have gone into a panic had I looked at myself in the mirror. My husband said my face looked like a giant red balloon and my lips looked like a clown.”

The emergency responders gave Norman an epinephrine injection to treat the anaphylaxis and she received Benadryl, an IV, and steroids during the ambulance ride to Sparta, the closest hospital. The doctor at the hospital said her reaction was probably environmental and sent her home with a prescription and advice to always carry an EpiPen.

She continued to eat red meat, even preparing her son’s favorite pork tenderloin dish that Wednesday. As the week wore on, and her steroids from the hospital wore off, Norman felt her throat becoming tighter and tighter.

“I had been eating the culprits all week,” she said. “I was full of steroids and that’s probably why it took so long. We went to Vanderbilt and Dr. Jan Price talked to me about what happened to me. I was retracing my steps and remembered that, in the middle of June, a tick bit me on the foot. She sent me to Dr. Valet and he said he knew what I had based on the tick and my reactions.”

Valet said he diagnoses patients with a blood test but there is not a good way to desensitize people once they become allergic to this food, so they have to avoid red meats and, in some cases, milk as well.

“It certainly is a big disruption for a lot of people’s lives. Things like your classic barbecue really becomes off limits,” Valet said. “We know that getting repeated tick bites causes the level of allergy antibody to rise and so we do recommend people with this allergy do good tick avoidance and carry an EpiPen if they do have an exposure to red meat and need to rescue themselves.”

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Re: Some Tick Bites May Trigger Meat Allergy

Post by RitaA » Tue 8 Apr 2014 20:23
Mil Med. 2014 Apr;179(4):e473-5. doi: 10.7205/MILMED-D-13-00369.

A case of tick-bite-induced red meat allergy.

Wuerdeman MF, Harrison JM.

Author information

563d ASB, 159th CAB, 101st Airborne Division, 7973 Strike Boulevard, Fort Campbell, KY 42223.


Delayed hypersensitivity disorders and food allergies are often challenging for the clinician and patient alike. A recent discovery of an IgE antibody specific to galactose-α-1,3-galactose, which is a carbohydrate abundantly expressed on cells and tissues of beef, pork, and lamb, adds one more tool to aid the clinician in making the appropriate diagnosis. A link has been discovered between the bite of the Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) and the development of sensitivity to galactose-α-1,3-galactose. With a high prevalence of Lone Star Tick populations inhabiting major U.S. Army Installations, and the type of duty required by our Service members, it could potentially affect susceptible individuals. We describe a case of an active duty soldier who went 4 years searching for this elusive diagnosis and connection and discuss why it should remain in the differential diagnosis when treating military health care beneficiaries.

Reprint & Copyright © 2014 Association of Military Surgeons of the U.S.

[PubMed - in process]

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Re: Some Tick Bites May Trigger Meat Allergy

Post by RitaA » Sun 20 Sep 2015 19:15

Here's an Associated Press article that was posted on a Canadian website last year: ... -1.1949985
'Lone Star' tick bites can turn you off red meat

Marilynn Marchione, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, August 7, 2014 1:47PM EDT

A bug can turn you into a vegetarian, or at least make you swear off red meat. Doctors across the nation are seeing a surge of sudden meat allergies in people bitten by a certain kind of tick.

This bizarre problem was only discovered a few years ago but is growing as the ticks spread from the Southwest and the East to more parts of the United States. In some cases, eating a burger or a steak has landed people in the hospital with severe allergic reactions.

Few patients seem aware of the risk, and even doctors are slow to recognize it. As one allergist who has seen 200 cases on New York's Long Island said, "Why would someone think they're allergic to meat when they've been eating it their whole life?"

The culprit is the Lone Star tick, named for Texas, a state famous for meaty barbecues. The tick is now found throughout the South and the eastern half of the United States.

Researchers think some other types of ticks also might cause meat allergies; cases have been reported in Australia, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Japan and Korea.

Here's how it happens: The bugs harbour a sugar that humans don't have, called alpha-gal. The sugar is also is found in red meat -- beef, pork, venison, rabbit -- and even some dairy products. It's usually fine when people encounter it through food that gets digested.

But a tick bite triggers an immune system response, and in that high-alert state, the body perceives the sugar the tick transmitted to the victim's bloodstream and skin as a foreign substance, and makes antibodies to it. That sets the stage for an allergic reaction the next time the person eats red meat and encounters the sugar.

It happened last summer to Louise Danzig, a 63-year-old retired nurse from Montauk on eastern Long Island.

Hours after eating a burger, "I woke up with very swollen hands that were on fire with itching," she said. As she headed downstairs, "I could feel my lips and tongue were getting swollen," and by the time she made a phone call for help, "I was losing my ability to speak and my airway was closing."

She had had recent tick bites, and a blood test confirmed the meat allergy.

"I'll never have another hamburger, I'm sure," Danzig said. "I definitely do not want to have that happen to me again."

In Mount Juliet near Nashville, Tennessee, 71-year-old Georgette Simmons went to a steakhouse on June 1 for a friend's birthday and had a steak.

"About 4:30 in the morning I woke up and my body was on fire. I was itching all over and I broke out in hives. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before," she said.

A few weeks later, for a brother's birthday, she ordered another steak. Hours later she woke "almost hysterical" with a constricted throat in addition to hives and a burning sensation. She, too, recalled tick bites.

Dr. Robert Valet at Vanderbilt University said Simmons was one of two patients he diagnosed with the meat allergy that day. He warned her it could be worse next time.

"I never did eat a lot of red meat anyway but when I go out I like a nice fillet. Right now I wouldn't even eat hamburger meat," Simmons said.

At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, "I see two to three new cases every week," said Dr. Scott Commins, who with a colleague, Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, published the first paper tying the tick to the illness in 2011.

One of the first cases they saw was a bow hunter who had eaten meat all his life but landed in the emergency department several times with allergic reactions after eating meat. More cases kept turning up in people who were outdoors a lot.

"It seemed something geographical. We thought at first it might be a squirrel parasite," Commins said. "It took us a while to sort of put everything together" and finger the tick, he said.

Dr. Erin McGintee, an allergy specialist on eastern Long Island, an area with many ticks, has seen nearly 200 cases over the last three years. At least 30 involved children, and the youngest was 4 or 5. She is keeping a database to study the illness with other researchers.

"It is bizarre," she said. "It goes against almost anything I've ever learned as an allergist," because the symptoms can occur as long as eight hours after eating meat, rather than immediately, and the culprit is a sugar -- a type of carbohydrate -- whereas most food allergies are caused by proteins, she said.

Allergic reactions can be treated with antihistamines to ease itching, and more severe ones with epinephrine. Some people with the allergy now carry epinephrine shots in case they are stricken again.

Doctors don't know if the allergy is permanent. Some patients show signs of declining antibodies over time, although those with severe reactions are understandably reluctant to risk eating meat again. Even poultry products such as turkey sausage sometimes contain meat byproducts and can trigger the allergy.

"We don't really know yet how durable this will be" or whether it's lifelong, like a shellfish allergy, Valet said.

The meat allergy "does not seem to be lifelong, but the caveat is, additional tick bites bring it back," Commins said.

Michael Abley, who is 74 and lives in Surry, Virginia, near Williamsburg, comes from a family of cattle ranchers and grew up eating meat. He developed the meat allergy more than a decade ago, although it was only tied to the tick in more recent years.

"Normally I can eat a little bit of dairy," he said, but some ice cream landed him in an emergency room about a month ago. He admitted having had recent bug bites.

"I'm surrounded by ticks here," he said.
Unless the Lone Star tick is found in the countries mentioned above (i.e. Australia, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Japan and Korea), I think it's safe to assume that other types of ticks are also capable of producing the same type of potentially life-threatening reaction to some (but certainly not all) tick bites. Not everyone who is bitten by a Lone Star tick develops this type of allergy (i.e. immune response), and that's definitely something worthy of further investigation. ... ic-to-meat

How a Tick Bite Made Me Allergic to Meat

A disastrous allergic reaction sends the author looking for immunological answers.

By Helen Chappell|Monday, August 13, 2012

The last time I ate a hamburger, I spent the night in the emergency room. There wasn’t anything wrong with the hamburger itself—aside from being a bit overdone—but it sent me into anaphylactic shock.


Commins is one of a few scientists who are starting to tease out some of the details of the allergy. So far, they’ve proven that lone star ticks, a common species in the Southeast, can trigger the allergy, but they suspect other species of ticks can as well. The same allergy has been observed in Australia, for instance, where there are no lone star ticks to spread it.

Not every bite from a lone star tick necessarily causes the allergy.


As if the whole idea of a tick-induced allergy isn’t bizarre enough, the fact that alpha-gal is a sugar, not a protein, is particularly odd, says Commins. Most allergies are immune responses to proteins—peanuts, for instance, contain proteins that link up with antibodies in people who are allergic, triggering a reaction. To date, alpha-gal allergy is the only known case of a sugar-triggered allergy.

Even stranger, although most allergic responses are immediate, the reaction to alpha-gal is delayed by several hours.

Alpha-gal allergy (or colloquially meat allergy) is a reaction to Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, whereby the body is overloaded with immunoglobulin E antibodies on contact with the carbohydrate. Alpha-gal is found in all mammals apart from Old World monkeys and the apes (including humans).

Bites from the lone star tick, which transfer this carbohydrate to the victim, have been implicated in the development of this delayed allergic response which is triggered by the consumption of mammalian meat products.[1] Despite myths to the contrary, an alpha-gal allergy does not require the afflicted to become a vegetarian, as poultry and fish do not trigger a reaction.[2]

The allergy most often occurs in the central and southern United States, which corresponds to the distribution of the lone star tick.[3] In the Southern United States, where the tick is most prevalent, allergy rates are 32% higher than elsewhere.[4] However, as doctors are not required to report the number of patients suffering the alpha-gal allergies, the true number of affected individuals is unknown.[5]

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