Potentially dangerous meat allergy caused by tick bites back in the spotlight
NASHVILLE, Tenn.--With tick season upon us, increased reports of an allergy to red meat caused by tick bites has reignited the conversation about tick prevention.
According to a new report in Wired, reports of the allergy has spread to Minnesota, New Hampshire, and parts of Long Island. However, the condition known as Alpha-gal is not new to Middle Tennessee.
FOX 17 reported on Alpha-gal in 2015, speaking with resident Bob Mallory. Mallory was bitten by a lone star tick and developed the allergy to mammal meat. As a result, Mallory is forced to carry an EpiPen with him to ensure he doesn't go into anaphylactic shock.
Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose --Alpha-gal for short-- is an alergy to mammal meat developed after a person is bitten by a tick. More specifically, alpha-gal is a carbohydrate found in red meat. When a person is bitten by a tick, their immune system can develop an antibody known as IgE, causing a reaction to eating mammal meat.
According to Dr. Andrew Nickels of Vanderbilt University's Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program, the transmission takes place when a tick feeds on a deer. “The ticks will feed on deer and then when they bite humans, the humans are exposed to the Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose found in the deer blood still in the tick,” Nickels stated in a Vanderbilt report last year.
As the Alpha-Gal Allergy Awareness organization puts it, since the reaction to eating mammal meat is delayed by several hours, proper diagnosis is often missed or misdiagnosed, putting the infected person at-risk.
Since there is no cure for Alpha-gal, those affected are forced to change their diets and like Bob Mallory, prepare for potential shock. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises residents to use repellent that contains 20% or more of DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin. Avoiding wooded and brushy areas where ticks live and shower as soon as possible, conducting a full-body check to ensure a tick has not attached to your body. Pets should also be checked for ticks so they don't bring the pests indoors.