Tick Bite Causes Serious Allergy to Red Meat
I read an interesting article in the Washington Post recently about a 57 year-old man who had three near fatal anaphylactic reactions to something he ate. At first it was thought that he was suddenly allergic to some type of seafood, but after the third reaction, when, unlike the other 2 times, he had not eaten any seafood, his ailment became even more mysterious. It took 6 months to uncover the culprit. According to 2 recent studies, one in the US and one in Australia, he is not the only one with the same diagnosis. It seems that a tick bite can trigger the production of an antibody that cross- reacts with a sugar present on red meat. And not just any tick bite, it has to be a bite that causes a significant skin reaction. Yes, he had had a tick bite a month before his first serious reaction and yes, he had eaten some form of red meat before all three reactions. I found this all very curious and decided to search PubMed to find the 2 medical studies referred to in the Post article. Initially, I ran a simple search using the terms "tick allergy red meat". A check of the Details feature showed that PubMed searched for both the text terms and the appropriate MeSH headings:
(“ticks”[MeSH Terms] OR “ticks”[All Fields] OR “tick”[All Fields]) AND “hypersensitivity”[MeSH Terms] OR “hypersensitivity”[All Fields] OR “allergy”[All Fields] OR “allergy and immunology”[MeSH Terms] OR (“allergy”[All Fields] AND “immunology”[All Fields]) OR “allergy and immunology”[All Fields]) AND red[All Fields] AND (“meat”[MeSH Terms] OR “meat”[All Fields])
The Australian study was the only one that came up, I still had to find the US study. I checked the Australian article to see what MeSH terms were used to index it and re-ran my search using these MeSH terms:"Food Hypersensitivity" "Ticks" "Meat". But again the only article that came up was the Australian one. Using clues from the Post article, I used the Limits feature of PubMed to search for the author "Commins, Scott" and the journal title "The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology". This time I found the US study. And, serendipitously, I also found a more recent article (October 2009) also out of the University of Virginia and written by two of the same researchers as the other US article and involving a similar topic. Note that all 3 articles require payment/subscription to view the full-text, but you can view the bibliographic citation and abstracts of the articles for free at PubMed.
Moral #1 - I found the Post article fascinating but almost too bizarre to believe so to satisfy myself, I set out to find the reports of the medical studies that supported it. As always, PubMed came to the rescue. Moral #2 - watch those ticks, not only can they give you Lyme Disease, they can give you a possibly fatal allergic reaction to red meat!