It is early morning in early summer, and I am tracing my way through the woods of central North Carolina, steering cautiously around S-curves and braking hard when what looks like a small rise turns into a narrow bridge. I am on my way to meet Tami McGraw, who lives with her husband and the youngest of their kids in a sprawling development of old trees and wide lawns just south of Chapel Hill. Before I reach her, McGraw emails. She wants to feed me when I get there:
“Would you like to try emu?” she asks. “Or perhaps some duck?”
These are not normal breakfast offerings. But for years, nothing about McGraw’s life has been normal. She cannot eat beef or pork, or drink milk or…
Unraveling why tick bites are suddenly causing a strange reaction in some people who eat meat could help scientists better understand how all allergies work.
I understand that researchers and medical professionals still have a lot to learn about AGS—it was only first discovered in 2009, after all. Hopefully in the future, doctors will have a much better understanding of this condition and perhaps some better treatment options for us, too.
Normally, humans aren’t affected by a bite from Ixodes holocyclus – better known as the paralysis tick. But in some cases, it can trigger a dangerous and rare allergy to red meat.
An unusual reaction to mammalian meat is challenging the immunological understanding of allergies.
In the United States, you probably got bitten by a Lone Star tick, which sensitized you to alpha-gal. But alpha-gal allergy is a global problem, with cases in Europe and Australia, where it is triggered by other species of ticks. Dr. Scott Commins, a University of North Carolina researcher, wonders if there are other blood-sucking insects that could also trigger the allergy, like mosquitos, but so far this is just a question to research. Currently under study: figuring out why some people bitten by Lone Star ticks get the allergy, while others don’t.
Some people are allergic to peanuts, others to shellfish, fruits, or wheat. But this rare allergy is a carnivore's worst nightmare: A tick bite that can cause a case of itchy red hives every time you eat meat. Yup, get bit by one of these buggers and you may be saying farewell to your filet Mignon.
For some people around the country, this is no nightmare, it's a reality – and it may be coming to your neck of the woods.
To some, especially the average American, it might seem like a curse: All it takes is bite of a tiny tick to trigger an allergic reaction to steaks, burgers, and pork.
One day you enjoy a hamburger with no problem and the next time you eat one you have a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Scary stuff, huh?
‘Tick-induced mammalian meat allergy’ reported in Europe, Asia, Central America and Africa but most prevalent in parts of Australia and the US.
Maybe the most bizarre threat from ticks is the “red meat allergy” scientists have recently traced back to tick bites. People can become allergic to eating meat when a tick’s saliva passes on the carbohydrate galactose-α-1.3-galactose it had previously picked up in a blood meal from an animal. If prone to allergies, the person can get sensitized to that alpha-gal molecule that’s found in animal blood and other tissues.
Interviews with doctors suggest the Lone Star tick, and the allergy to sugars in red meat that it can cause, is on the rise.
The insects are an unlikely ally against the lone star tick.
If Lyme disease isn't reason enough to avoid ticks, here's another: the inability to enjoy a burger.
Odd as it seems, researchers say that bites from the voracious lone star tick are making some people allergic to red meat—even if they've never had a problem eating it before.
But, how exactly could people allergic to meat benefit from modified pig meat? The pig meat would be free of the alpha-gal compound, Business Insider explains.
Becoming allergic to meat turns your life upside down. Known as alpha-gal allergy, the condition dictates what you can eat, wear, how you relax, and even which medicines are safe. Is research finally starting to catch up?
Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) (also called alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, or tick bite meat allergy) is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. AGS may occur after people eat red meat or are exposed to other products containing alpha-gal.