What To Watch For
Early signs of anaphylaxis may include a metallic taste, burning, tingling, or itching of the tongue or mouth, headache, and feelings of fear or confusion. A reaction can progress quickly, and severe symptoms include throat swelling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, and more.
If you think you may be experiencing anaphylaxis, even if youve never had an allergic reaction before, you should call 911.
When the reaction is under control, talk to your doctor about whether red meat could have been the cause of your symptoms, since some doctors may not be aware of the alpha-gal allergy, suggests Princess Ogbogu, M.D., division director of allergy and immunology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Theres no cure for red meat allergy, so if youre diagnosed, youll need to avoid the foods that trigger a reaction. Commonly, that includes various kinds of red meats. But some people can also become sensitive to other items that contain alpha-gal, including dairy, and even, rarely, sweets that contain gelatin or medications derived from animal byproducts.
In some cases, Lieberman says, if people whove developed alpha- gal allergies avoid all future tick bites from lone star ticks , their levels of the antibodies to alpha-gal may diminish, and the allergy could subside. Its unknown how common this is, however.
Scientists Think That Lone Star Ticks Can Induce An Allergy To Red Meat Here’s How To Protect Yourself
Most of us worry about Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever when getting a tick bite. But different species of ticks can transmit a variety of diseasesand at least one very unusual ailment, scientists have learned: an allergy to red meat.
A growing body of evidence shows that the lone star tickmost prevalent in the southeastern U.S.could be the cause of an allergy to a carbohydrate known as alpha-gal, which is found in red meat.
Scientists arent sure just how common this allergy is. But lone star ticks are spreadingtheir habitat now extends from the Southeast almost all the way to the Canadian borderwhich means more people may encounter them. Scientists who study the alpha-gal allergy estimated back in 2013 that more than 5,000 people in the Southeast U.S. alone could have the allergy.
A 2018 study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology suggests that a meat allergy caused by ticks may be more common than previously known, and could explain some previously unexplained cases of severe allergic reactions.
Heres what you need to know about this allergy.
European Ixodes Tick Found To Carry Alpha Gal Protein Associated With Red Meat Allergy
Studies have found an association between tick bites, specifically from the species Amblyomma americanum, also known as the Lone Star tick, and red meat allergies. An association between tick bites, the development of immunoglobulin E antibodies to galactose–1, 3-galactose and red meat allergy has recently been reported, explains the authors of an article published in PLoS One journal.
Alpha Gal is a sugar molecule that can be spread through the bite of a Lone Star tick. Once bitten, a persons immune system begins making antibodies to a-Gal. Red meat is rife with it. So most patients become aware of the allergy or illness after they eat red meat.
In an interview with National Geographic, Cosby Stone, an allergy and immunology fellow at Vanderbilt University, explained, Theres a time delay in the reaction. It has to first travel through your gastrointestinal tract to be released. Hours later, patients wake up with hives, shortness of breath, vomiting, and diarrhea.
European tick carries protein associated with red meat allergy
European researchers recently identified a-Gal in the gastrointestinal tract of the tick species Ixodes ricinus, the vector responsible for causing Lyme borreliosis in Europe. Such findings suggest that tick bites from various species may lead to the development of IgE antibodies to a-Gal.
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Chronic Lyme Disease Can Seriously Affect A Persons Quality Of Life
Regarding This tiny bug is at the root of a big controversy over Lyme disease : I am a registered nurse who has suffered the effects of post-tick-bite Lyme disease. Despite being treated, progressive signs of Lyme disease persist. Something that most doctors and the general population do not know about tick bites is that a tick carries other infectious diseases simultaneously. A single bite can cause a myriad of infections that may not be responsive to the traditional tick-bite antibiotics.
Thomas Platts-Mills, a noted tick-bite researcher at the University of Virginia, and his colleagues are working to determine why certain individuals who have been bitten by ticks and treated for Lyme disease develop an allergic reaction to beef and pork that can cause an anaphylactic reaction necessitating emergency treatment. Researchers are finding that many viruses can affect ones DNA post-infection.
Have the author and her daughter been tested for alpha-gal allergy?
I had tick-bite-related symptoms similar to what the author described in the article. Then I learned about how tick bites can induce alpha-gal allergy.
I was a vaccine senior scientist . Alpha gal could easily have been missed by doctors.
Frank A. Robey,Bethesda
My daughter had lost 20 pounds and suffered from nausea, joint pain, dizziness and flulike symptoms.
My daughter finally saw a Lyme specialist, who said there is only one lab in the United States that can detect Lyme in the early stages.
Testing And Treatment Of Alpha
In many cases, we dont find this is a life-long immune response. It may go away. It appears in many patients to be transient. They may have 18-24 months without red meat, and then we begin to follow their blood test levelwhich is another reason to have the blood test doneit typically trends down over time. When appropriate, we begin to reintroduce red meat.
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Inclusion And Exclusion Criteria And Case Definition
Patients reporting a suspicion of repeated allergic reactions after ingestion of mammalian meat were included. The inclusion criteria were a compatible clinical picture characterized by allergic reactions after ingestion of any mammalian meat and the appearance of the first signs in French Guiana.
The exclusion criteria were patients with no follow-up and thus without medical records, clinical history not consistent with the diagnosis, and first signs of reaction having started outside of French Guiana.
Proven cases were individuals reporting clinical symptoms consistent with the -Gal syndrome clinical picture described in the literature and confirmed by paraclinical examinations. The probable cases were individuals reporting compatible clinical symptoms without laboratory results.
The Lone Star Tick Is The Bully Of The Tick World Its Population Is Booming
It was on Tom Muirs daily commute from Virginia to his federal-government job in DC that he knew something was very wrong.
On those drives, he started to notice that my eyes would swell, my lips would swell. I had facial flushing, and my heart rate would go through the roof.
For two years, Muirwho often works outdoors on his farm in Fauquier Countywas having increasingly bad allergic reactions to something, but he couldnt figure out what. He went to allergy clinics but tested negative for common food allergies. It wasnt until a wasp sting landed him in the emergency room that he started putting the pieces together.
He told the doctors that his reactions seemed to occur any day after he ate red meat, which was often. I used to eat bacon for breakfast, a steak for lunch, and a hamburger for dinner, he says.
It turned out Muir had alpha-gal syndrome, named for a sugar molecule, alpha-gal, or galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose. Its sometimes called the meat allergy because those with AGS can no longer eat red meat without getting sick.
AGS is most often transmitted to humans by the lone star tick, a creepy, crawly thing thats sometimes no bigger than a poppy seed. Around the area, theyre the largest variety of tick you will encounter by far, says Holly Gaff of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, who has been studying ticks, their behaviors, and the diseases they carry.
Says Gaff: Theyre the bully of the tick world.
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Infectious Diseases Society Of America
The Infectious Diseases Society of America is writing to provide input to the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group ahead of its Feb. 28, 2022, meeting to review the work of the Working Groups subcommittees and develop recommendations for its 2022 report to Congress. IDSA represents more than 12,000 infectious disease physicians, scientists, public health practitioners and other health care professionals specializing in infectious diseases. IDSA members focus on the investigation, diagnosis, epidemiology, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Our members care for patients of all ages with serious infections, including tick-borne diseases. We would be happy to serve as a resource for the Working Group. IDSA appreciates the work of the Working Group and its subcommittees and continues to strongly urge the Working Group to ground all its recommendations in the best available scientific evidence. Below, we have flagged critical areas for funding and support we feel the Working Group is best equipped to address.
Surveillance and Tick Ecology Studies and Funding
Vaccine, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Development
Patient Access and Equity
About The Lone Star Tick
Lone star ticks, so named for the white splotch on the backs of adult females, are most common in southern and eastern states. Like other ticks, however, their geographic distribution is expanding, according to Ellen Stromdahl, a retired entomologist from the tickborne disease laboratory of the U.S. Army Public Health Center in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
Lone star ticks dont cause Lyme disease, as a recent analysis that Stromdahl conducted shows. But along with spreading the alpha-gal allergy, they can also transmit the bacteria that cause another disease called ehrlichiosis. Ehrlichiosis can cause fever, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and, rarely, rash. Its fatal in about 1.8 percent of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although it can be treated with antibiotics.
A lone star tick is much less likely to carry ehrlichiosis than a blacklegged tick is likely to carry Lyme disease, notes Stromdahl. But lone star ticks are much more aggressive than other common types of ticks in the U.S. Youre more likely to be mobbed by lone star ticks, she says, and finding multiple bites is common if youve been in their habitat.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Ags
AGS reactions can include:
- Swelling of the lips, throat, tongue, or eye lids
- Dizziness or faintness
- Severe stomach pain
AGS can be severe, and even life-threatening. Seek immediate emergency care if you are having a severe allergic reaction.
How Are Ticks Involved In Alpha
Alpha-gal meat allergy has been reported all over the world including Asia, Australia, Central America, Europe, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.
In the U.S., the tick species most often associated with AGS is the lone star tick found throughout the South, East and parts of the Midwest. Recent research suggests that the blacklegged tick may also be implicated in alpha-gal syndrome.
The Asian longhorned tick , the primary trigger of AGS in Asia, has shown up in the US recently, but has yet to be implicated in AGS here. The Cayenne tick found in southern Texas and Florida has also been linked to AGS in Central America, but not yet in the U.S.
While no known pathogen has been linked to triggering AGS, more research is needed to understand the mechanism and the role that ticks play. Currently the thought is that the tick saliva plays a role in activating the allergy to alpha-gal.
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No Lyme In Mississippi Wrong Plus Co
Cortney McCord delivered the following public comment at the Feb.28 meeting of the federal Tick-Borne Disease Working Group.
My name is Cortney McCord. Im a 41-year-old registered nurse from Northeast Mississippi.
On May 8, 2021, I found a deer tick on my leg. I developed an erythema migrans rash and two other small EM rashes.
My primary care provider gave me ten days of doxycycline and told me not to worry because we dont have Lyme in Mississippi.
I became so sick. I had to become my own advocate. I found the closest Lyme-literate doctor who was two hours away from my home.
He began to treat me with antibiotics based on my obvious symptoms and the presence of the EM rash. Testing showed positive for three Lyme-specific bands on Western Blot, and co-infections of Bartonella henselae, Bartonella quintana, Bartonella vinsonii, Babesia microti, and Babesia duncani.
Twelve weeks after the bite that gave me Lyme, I developed alpha-gal syndrome. It didnt start with gastric problems like most people. My very first reaction happened when I was frying pork breakfast sausage for my family.
I had two other severe reactions that week. The next week, I saw my local allergist who drew bloodwork for alpha gal IgE. My number was 0.32.
The allergist told me that I should not be having anaphylactic reactions with that low number. He brushed me off and insinuated that I was lying. Needless to say, I fired him, and Ive been flying blind with no allergist on board since August 2021.
How One Tick Bite Can Cause Severe Meat Allergies
When one is bitten by a tick in the Northeastern United States it can trigger concern about Lyme Disease. However, hundreds of cases of a new tick-related disease which causes a severe allergy to red meat have recently been diagnosed on Long Island.
The culprit appears to be the lone star tick, named for a distinct white dot on the back of the adult tick. Experts believe the lone star tick produces a sugar from its gut called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or Alpha-Gal. In some cases, the human immune system develops an allergic response to that sugar. Because Alpha-Gal is also found in red meat, a bite by the lone star tick may trigger an allergic reaction to anything from beef hamburgers to bacon. Repeated tick bites can potentially cause the antibody level of Alpha-Gal to rise, worsening reactions.
Within three to eight hours after consuming red meat, a person who has the allergy can get hives, experience swelling and have difficulty breathing. Some could even develop severe allergic reaction that could lead to the closing of their airways and require immediate medical attention.
Anthony Szema, MD, an allergist and immunologist in South Setauket, NY, treated a patient from Shelter Island last year who went into anaphylactic shock after eating a hamburger due to a bite by a lone star tick. Then, after being hospitalized, he had a second allergic reaction to milk.
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Allergy To Mammalian Meat Linked To Alpha
- 1 Infectious and Tropical Diseases Department, Centre Hospitalier Andrée Rosemon, Cayenne, French Guiana
- | 2 Equipe EA 3593, Ecosystèmes Amazoniens et Pathologie Tropicale, Université de la Guyane, Cayenne, French Guiana
- | 3 Centre dInvestigation Clinique, INSERM 1424, Centre Hospitalier Andrée Rosemon, Cayenne, French Guiana
- | 4 Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, Faculté de Médecine Hyacinthe Basturaud, Pointe-à-Pitre, France
- | 5 Laboratory of Medical Biology, Centre Hospitalier Andrée Rosemon, Cayenne, French Guiana
- | 6 Department of Pneumology and Gastroenterology, Centre Hospitalier Andrée Rosemon, Cayenne, French Guiana
- | 7 Maladies Infectieuses et Vecteurs: Écologie, Génétique, Évolution et Contrôle, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut pour la Recherche et le Développement, Université de Montpellier, Montpellier, France
- | 8 Tenon Hospital, Dermatology-Allergology Department, Sorbonne University, Paris, France
- | 9 Immunology and Infectious Diseases Center-Paris-INSERM U1135, Paris, France
A = Amblyomma A = anaphylaxis Ag = agouti Ap = abdominal pain B = beef D = diarrhea E = edema G = gelatin Gi = giblets I = Ixodes IQR = interquartile ratio L = lamb M = lamb P = pork Pr = pruritus RM = red meat U = urticaria UK = unknown V = vomits.
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Study Type And Study Population
A prospective observational and descriptive study was carried out between September 2017 and July 2019 in French Guiana on patients reporting a suspicion of allergy after ingestion of mammalian meats. All patients reporting a suspicion of food allergy after ingestion of mammalian meat were prospectively included. A call for cases via medical and nonmedical networks took place between September 2017 and July 2019. Patients were recruited through several routes. Some had already consulted in the Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases for another illness or were identified by the investigators beforehand through word of mouth. Others were found through a mailing to the general physicians of the territory and to practitioners at the Cayenne Hospital Center asking if they had dealt with a patient complaining of an allergy to red meat. Still others were recruited via nonmedical networks, such as mailing lists to naturalist networks , as well as the Facebook group LVGla vie en Guyane , which reached more than 31,000 people living mainly in French Guiana and coming from all ways of life and ethnicities.