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Meat Allergy (Alpha-Gal) caused by a Tick Bite!

Many of you already know about the various infections that a tick bite can transmit and for some leading to life altering diseases and symptoms. But did you know that a tick bite may also lead to a meat allergy?

Alpha- Gal allergy has come on the medical radar in 2002 when a number of patients exhibited an allergic reaction to a cancer drug – Cetuximab. It was later discovered that Cetuximab contains the same alpha-gal sugar as meat. A connection between tick bites and meat allergy was made only after the scientist involved in this research,Thomas Platts-Mills of the University of Virginia, was himself beaten by a tick and developed the allergy.

Alpha-Gal is a sugar that is found in mammalian meat such as cows, sheep, pigs and more. The cause of this allergy often stems from exposure to Lone Star tick that contains the same sugar in its saliva. Researchers from the University of Virginia suspect over 1,500 cases of alpha-gal allergy in the U.S. These cases are more prevalent in the areas where lone star tick is found.

The allergic reaction is often difficult to diagnose clinically because it is delayed. Most patients exhibit symptoms 2-6 hours after ingesting a meal and so a connection between the meal and the allergic reaction is not easily made.

The symptoms that one should look out for are:

· Stuffy or runny nose

· Nausea/vomiting

· Swollen tongue

· Indigestion

· Hives or rash

· Itchy skin

· Sneezing

· Shortness of breath

· Exacerbation of Asthma symptoms

· Anaphylactic reaction with throat closure

I recommend carrying an EpiPen – if your allergic reaction is severe. If one suspects a meat allergy, please see your allergist who can perform a blood test for (Alpha-Gal IgE assay) or skin testing to confirm the diagnosis.

Often the treatment is avoiding the allergen in this case mammalian meat products. In my practice however, I have seen patients with meat and other chemical allergies/sensitivities that also have various tick borne illnesses which improve/resolve with treatment of their underline medical condition i.e. infection, inflammation, and autoimmune processes.

One important point that I urge everyone to consider is that re-exposure to ticks is what often subjects patients to significant life altering symptoms and conditions. Therefore, I advise everyone to think about tick and insect prevention not only in the summer months but whenever you are spending time outdoors by protecting your yard, your pets and yourselves.




151 E 62nd, STE 1A New York, NY 10065 | T: 212-288-8832


Dr. Frid is a physician specializing in Lyme disease and sees patients with this condition - which is not universal among physicians. For more information about Lyme disease contact Dr. Frid

follow Dr. Frid on Instagram @drelenafrid.

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