There is never any good news relating to ticks. Tick populations are either growing, or another tick-related illness has been discovered, or both. Not long ago researchers discovered that tick bites can cause bite victims to become allergic to red meat, also known as alpha-gal syndrome. This bizarre consequence of lone star tick bites has been confirmed true, and many bite victims have already been diagnosed with alpha-gal syndrome around the United States, with the great majority of them living in the northeast US. Now researchers believe that people who develop tick induced red meat allergies, are also likely to develop recurrent episodes of anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that causes a sufferer’s airways to become constricted, resulting in labored breathing. And blood pressure levels drop to dangerously low levels. The episodes can occur without warning and there are no known triggers for anaphylaxis. Recently, researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) noticed that some people’s unexplained anaphylaxis was caused by an allergy to red meat, or alpha-gal syndrome. This finding is worrisome to public health officials, who have found that some people will go years without being diagnosed with alpha gal syndrome, which also means that these undiagnosed individuals could be at risk for experiencing episodes of anaphylaxis. For individuals who have already been diagnosed with alpha-gal, doctors can now warn them about possible episodes of anaphylaxis. However, some people do not eat red meat, which means their allergy is unknown to them. And some people can sustain a tick bite that results in the allergy without realizing that they had acquired alpha-gal. These individuals are unknowingly at great risk of experiencing anaphylaxis.

Not everyone with alpha-gal syndrome has sustained a tick bite. Rarely, people are born with the syndrome. The prevalence of alpha-gal syndrome is currently unknown, but research shows that most people that have been diagnosed with the syndrome live or used to live in New York, New Jersey and New England. This is where tick populations are highest, and tick related diseases are most prevalent. A few subjects lived in the southeast as well. This indicates that many people became allergic to red meat as a result of tick bites. And all six study participants at the National Institutes of Health had tick induced alpha-gal syndrome. Until this study was published, doctors had been telling patients that their anaphylaxis was an allergic reaction to red meat. But now it looks as though anaphylaxis can be caused solely by tick bites along with alpha-gal syndrome.


Do you think most cases of alpha-gal are caused by tick bites?


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