Lone Star Ticks to Blame for Meat Allergies?


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Tick bites can cause all sorts of diseases from lymes to rocky mountain spotted fever. But did you know one type of tick can also bring on food allergies, Lone Star Ticks?

It might look harmless, but one bite from this little bug could change your whole life. If it attaches, the lone-star tick can trigger a severe allergic reaction to mammal meat such as beef, pork, and lamb.

Robert Valet, MD, Allergist/Immunologist, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine says, “This is really the first example of a food allergy being driven by an exposure to something else like an insect bite.”

People with the allergy may develop hives, swelling, wheezing, diarrhea, or life-threatening anaphylaxis when they eat red meat. Symptoms usually begin a few hours after exposure and the allergy appears to be a life-long problem for most. It happens because the tick bite causes some people to develop a strong immune response to a sugar molecule called alpha-gal which is found in the tick bite and red meat.

Dr. Valet explains, “So, patients become sensitized by the tick bite and then later when they eat red meat can have an allergic reaction.”

Though the lone star tick is most common in southern regions, its territory is expanding to areas in the midwest and northeast – in part due to global warming. Ticks thrive in warm and humid conditions and can cause a number of other illnesses. The CDC estimates that between 2004 and 2019, the number of tick-borne diseases in the US more than doubled. Experts say prevention measures are your best defense.

“Long clothing, insect repellent, look for ticks. If you see them get them off.”, says Dr. Valet.

Valet says that about 30 percent of the patients with the meat allergy will also experience problems tolerating dairy. But those with the allergy can still eat chicken and fish.

Contributors to this news report include: Julie Marks, Producer; Bob Walko, Editor.






BACKGROUND: Ever been bitten by a tick? It is no fun, but have you been bitten by a tick and then suddenly are allergic to red meat? Well, that is a thing and it’s called Alpha-gal syndrome, and this is caused most often by a bite from the Lone Star tick as it transmits a sugar molecule that can trigger an immune system reaction that later produces allergic reactions to red meat like beef and pork. The lone star tick is found predominantly in the southeastern United States and most of the cases for this occur in that region. Some of the symptoms include hives or itchy rash, heartburn or indigestion, drop is blood pressure, sever stomach pain and even can cause people to faint.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alpha-gal-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20428608#:~:text=Overview,gal%20into%20the%20person’s%20body. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/alpha-gal/index.html)

CAUSES: The cause of Alpha-gal syndrome is relativity simple, it is caused by a tick bite. Specifically the Lone Star Tick, which is found more often than not in the south east states like Florida, Georgia and Texas. The syndrome however has been diagnosed more in Europe, Asia and Australia where there are other ticks that carry the alpha-gal molecules. Another cause is from the Cancer drug cetuximab which causes the condition to be more prevalent in the areas where lone star ticks are more relevant.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alpha-gal-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20428608#:~:text=Overview,gal%20into%20the%20person’s%20body.)

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT: Diagnosing for Alpha gal syndrome is two ways, a blood test and a skin test. The blood test can confirm and measure the amount of antibodies you have in your blood stream while the skin test is a prick of your skin and then expose that skin to small amounts of substances extracted from red meat and if the skin develops a bump, you have the syndrome. Treating is simple as don’t eat and avoid foods that cause the reaction, and always check ingredients on labels when buying from a store to make sure they do not contain red meat or meat based ingredients.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alpha-gal-syndrome/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20428705#:~:text=A%20blood%20test%20can%20confirm,commercial%20or%20fresh%20red%20meat.)

* For More Information, Contact:                        Craig Boerner


Free weekly e-mail on Medical Breakthroughs from Ivanhoe. To sign up: http://www.ivanhoe.com/ftk