Tick Borne Disease Causing Meat Allergy On the Rise


Alpha-gal, a tick borne disease causing its victims to become allergic to meat is steadily spreading.

Scientists have traced the disease to the Lone Star tick, common in the U.S. Southeast.

Source: CDC.gov

What is alpha-gal?

  • Alpha-gal (galactose-α-1,3-galactose) is a sugar molecule found in most mammals (except in people, apes, and monkeys).
  • Alpha-gal is not normally found in fish, reptiles, or birds.
  • Alpha-gal can be found in products made from mammals (including some medications, cosmetics, vaccines, gelatin, and milk products).
  • Alpha-gal has also been found in some types of ticks.

What is alpha-gal allergy?

  • An alpha-gal allergy is an allergy to the alpha-gal sugar molecule. Allergic reactions typically occur after people eat meat from mammals that have alpha-gal or are exposed to products made from mammals.

What are the symptoms of alpha-gal allergy?

  • Symptoms can include:
    • Rash
    • Hives
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Drop in blood pressure
    • Dizziness or faintness
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Severe stomach pain
  • Symptoms of an alpha-gal allergy commonly appear 3-6 hours after eating meat (e.g., beef, lamb, pork, venison, and rabbit) or exposure to products containing alpha-gal.
  • Symptoms may not occur after every exposure and can vary from person to person.

Alpha-gal allergies can be severe, and even life-threatening. See a healthcare provider immediately if you are concerned about a severe allergic reaction.

How do I know if I have an alpha-gal allergy?

  • Alpha-gal allergy is diagnosed by an allergist, or other healthcare provider, through a detailed patient history, physical examination, and a blood test that looks for specific antibodies (IgE antibodies) to alpha-gal.

What can I do if I have an alpha-gal allergy?

  • Alpha-gal allergy should be managed under the care and supervision of a healthcare provider. Early recognition and changes in diet (e.g., avoiding meat) may prevent serious and life-threatening health problems.

Who as at risk for developing an alpha-gal allergy?

  • Most cases of alpha-gal allergy have been reported in the southeastern and midwestern United States.
  • Both children and adults can develop alpha-gal allergy; however, most cases of alpha-gal allergy appear to be in people >50 years of age.

Can you get an alpha-gal allergy from a tick bite?

  • Scientists do not yet know. Data from the United States and other countries suggest that alpha-gal allergy may be associated with tick bites. However, more research is needed to determine if tick bites can cause alpha-gal allergy.

What can you do to prevent alpha-gal allergy?

Until additional research confirms this association with tick bites, take steps to prevent tick bites.