Alpha-gal “Meat Allergy”

Ticks can transmit more than infections!

CDC Photo-Lone Star Tick

In recent years, cases of “Alpha-Gal” (Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose) or meat allergies have been diagnosed in people with tick bites. Alpha-gal is a delayed allergy to mammal meat affecting a growing number of the population. This allergy has been linked to the bite of the Lone Star tick. Lone Star ticks carry a sugar called alpha-gal, which is also found in meat, but not in people. When the tick bites a person it transfers this sugar into the bloodstream. The body then produces antibodies to fight the sugar.

The allergy may take several weeks or longer to develop after a tick bite and may become more severe with additional tick bite exposures. Then when a person eats meat, their immune system responds to the alpha-gal in the meat and they suffer an allergic reaction that can include itching, burning, hives and even throat swelling.

Since the reaction to eating red meat is typically delayed by several hours, the proper diagnosis is often missed or misdiagnosed. The allergic reaction can be severe and life-threatening, causing anaphylaxis in some people. It’s not yet known if the red meat allergy is permanent. Preventing tick bites is critical to avoiding this condition!

References

Lyme Disease Association, Inc.

Mayo Clinic News Network