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!


This forum is a

This forum is a god-send...last night I felt so alone while going through a mini attack caused from the casings on turkey sausage which I think were made from pork. I am learning that you have to be so careful and vigilent about what you eat with this allergy. I was diagnosed in May of 2010 and have been struggling ever since. My doctors have been great....my family physician referred me to an alergist after I had a night episode of hives and swollen lips. The allergist picked up on the alpha-gal possibility because I gave a false positive response to cat/dog allergy and reported frequeint ravages by chiggers while working in my yard which is in the mountians of Amherst County, VA.

Allergy-causing molds can

Allergy-causing molds can range from the straightforward ones discovered in nature to the dangerous molds developed by man-made construction. The effects of these molds can have a severe effect, which includes mortality. By understanding the causes and effects of mold allergies, one can start pursuing preventative treatments.In the southern states, foam boards wall insulation with no allowance for air space have caused the walls to turn into wicks for water leaks and floods. As a result, mold spores effortlessly proliferated throughout the home, leaving black mold. The symptoms of black mold allergy contain coughing of blood, anemia, wheezing, bloody nose and nausea.

My mother started having

My mother started having anaphylaxis episodes 2yr ago this Jan. After several trips to the E.R. and minor emergency centers, she was referred to an allergist.
This particular Dr. was involved in a research from Virginia (where he went to school). He knew almost immediately what her problem was. He did a few extra blood tests, and sent one A.S.A.P. to Tennessee.
It IS from the deer tick. The reaction can be immediate or long term. My mom's was 27yrs after the bite!
The person can become allergic to all mammalian products. Check labels, there are some foods, products that contain mammal ingredients. They can also become allergic to all dairy products as well.
Mom is allergic to Beef, Pork, Lamb, and Dairy.
There are some good sites for recipe ideas and substitutes.
Cooks.com,ChefMD.com, foodallergies.about.com,ask.com, and many others.
I wish everyone with this allergy good luck and good health.
I will keep checking in with all of you. Mom isn't too good about internet, blogs, etc.
Bless you all!
Debbie from Oklahoma

Katie, my experience has been

Katie, my experience has been that increased exposure to ticks definitely made my allergy more severe. I first discovered that I was allergic to red meat (beef, pork, lamb) 8 years ago; after a couple of years, I had no reactions except slight itching symptoms if I took a bite or two of red meat, and I didn't worry at all about cross-contamination. Then, this spring, I got 5 or 6 tick bites, and by late June had severe anaphylaxis (see above posts)...I've since had several milder reactions and have tested positive for red meat allergies, the alpha gal antibody, and most recently, have confirmed through testing that I have become allergic to dairy products -- all just since the latest round of tick bites this spring.

There appear to be widely different experiences among the people who report on their allergies, so my experience may not be the same as yours. But this past summer has been an absolute life-changer. I no longer take anything I put in my mouth for granted.

Katie, I checked the FAQ at

Katie, I checked the FAQ at the University of Virginia's meat allergy blog to see if they answered your question. It says that the allergy may get less severe if you can avoid tick bites altogether. I didn't see in there whether or not the allergy gets more severe if you continue to get tick bites. At the bottom of the FAQ, you can submit your own question to the health professionals there. Go to the blog at

http://allergytomeat.wordpress.com/ and then click on FAQ.


I've appreciated reading all

I've appreciated reading all these responses. I've had the red meat allergy(particularly pork) since 2006 and I live in the country outside of Chapel Hill, NC. I went to an allergist early on and told him I suspected it was pork and he did a blood test that confirmed it. I don't know exactly what kind of test it was, though. I'm wondering if I should expect a worsening reaction as a result of more exposure to ticks. This summer I got in a nest and had 57 seed ticks on one leg (which made for a fun couple of weeks) and I probably find a tick on me every month or so. Does anyone know if the reaction gets worse because you have more exposure to ticks? I pretty much avoid red meat so I haven't had a bad reaction in about a year. I wonder what I'm in for, though, the next time I eat mammalian meat products. I haven't noticed a reaction to dairy, thank goodness.

UVA's blog is a welcome

UVA's blog is a welcome resource.

Although my allergy is generally under control, I still suffer from cross contamination from time to time. I got nailed last week after eating Chicken Nachos while traveling. It took six hours, and I had enough warning to take a benadryll, but I still ended up on the bed with a racing heart, high blood pressure, and trouble breathing. For me, I think that I will have to eliminate grilled food while on the road.

Joy, you are welcome. I am

Joy, you are welcome. I am happy to have been able to help you folks get together and to share your experiences and your tips with each other!

Alice, we can't thank you

Alice, we can't thank you enough for putting this blog site together, and bringing in the additional resources. I think your site probably had a lot to do with UVA's building a blog of their own. It's been tremendously useful for me.

Article in AARP Online

Article in AARP Online Bulletin about this allergy and the research that the University of Virginia is doing on it:


Yay! The University of

Yay! The University of Virginia has started a blog on the mammalian meat allergy:


Well I feel better. Still

Well I feel better. Still itching from the hives after last night's rib eye but at least I know the cause and I'm grateful that my reactions are mild compared to what they could be. A small amount of lean and/or well done meat doesn't seem to be a problem for me. It's only medium cooked meat and especially the rib eye cut. Possibly due to the marbling of fat in it. It's been going on for a few months now and I pretty much had it narrowed down to red meat but wasn't positive since it doesn't happen all the time but that's obviously a dosage thing along with cut and degree of well done-ness. I also hadn't made a correlation to tick, chiggers until this morning after finding the above mentioned articles but I did indeed get into ticks and chiggers months back and thinking back it was just before my new found red meat allergy appeared. No major reaction to the 4-5 tick bites but they were tiny ticks. Chiggers on the other hand affect me greatly, itching for weeks and leaving scars for years. I hadn't gotten into chiggers for several years and back then it didn't have this affect so maybe it is the ticks. Who knows. I guess I'll have to start trying alternative meats. Pork doesn't bother me but I'm not big on it. Time to try venison, lamb, goat etc. I'm really going to miss my rib eyes but having hives on the bottom of the feet, in between the fingers and uhmm some other places is just no fun. Neither is feeling faint and nauseous. Thankfully no respiratory or anaphylactic signs. Steak for dinner at about 9pm and wake up itching at 5am. Subsides by 8-9am.

Hello again and thank you,

Hello again and thank you, Alice, for your efforts here. We're not crazy and we might be able to save each other pain and possibly save our lives, as well! To those who mentioned that they experiment? This may or may not apply to everyone, but for over 8 years I got away with sneaking bites of meat here and there, sometimes with no effect at all, sometimes with mild itching or GI distress. That nearly cost me my life two months ago. This past June, I had a bite of steak and a bite of a hamburger and experienced absolutely NO symptoms at all. Then, just three days later, had a small bite of hamburger and 30 minutes later went into full-blown anaphylaxis. Was unconscious and barely breathing, with blood pressure of 60 over 30 (and still falling) when the paramedics got to me. Both my allergist (just found him) and general practitioner warned me against any kind of "dabbling", as food allergy reactions can be capricious; you never know if/when you will have a reaction, nor how severe it will be. I learned the hard way.

I had a follow-up appointment with my allergist this week. I am going to get blood testing done (RAST) for dairy and get the Alpha-Gal test done (I've already had the RAST test for beef/lamb/pork and no surprise there, am allergic). A number of you have talked about the reactions you are having to various dairy products, but have you had the RAST testing done, and have you tested positive for dairy allergy? I think I may be developing intolerance but it's been difficult to sort out real reactions from anxiety. The daily Zyrtec and Pepcid AC appear to be keeping things calmer, but I've had some small reactions or some questionable "not right" periods of time, usually after having a little dairy (cream in my coffee, butter on bread -- other than that I've been avoiding dairy).

On the restaurant front...I don't eat anywhere unless I talk with the manager or owner, explain the situation and ask if they can accommodate my need for ZERO cross-contamination. If you've ever had a severe reaction, as I had, you have to be very specific and very clear about every possibility -- clean gloves, clean knives, clean work surface, nothing cooked or re-heated or toasted on a grill; no sandwich extras (letttuce, tomato) unless it's guaranteed they've not been touched by someone preparing a red meat sandwich. Still, it's hard to think of everything. I had a waitress in a Mexican restaurant who checked with the owner and advised me as to which menu items were safe. I thought I'd covered all the bases. But then she thought to read the package that the flour tortillas came in, and discovered (thankfully) that they contained lard. So...unless you are very specific AND restaurant people are very vigilant on your behalf, you could easily get into trouble. I have found that I can eat at Chick-Fil-A, but only the crispy chicken, not the grilled chicken, sandwiches, because the grilled chicken is grilled on the same grill as the bacon they put on some sandwiches. Same with Culver's. I don't get lettuce or tomato; I request a non-toasted bun (toasted on a grill). No lettuce or tomato because they're grabbed out of the same container by food preparers who are touching red meat. That goes for Subway too -- unless they'll go get a brand new tub of lettuce or whatever, I don't eat the veggies. Also, some Subways store their turkey slices in the SAME metal tub as their ham -- so I ask for turkey from the back, that has not been touched yet. Lettuce and tomato might have been how I had a reaction to a Panera tuna salad sandwich and lentil soup -- there was some cross-contamination there, even though I'd explained what I needed...ever since that episode, I ask for the manager (or owner), who usually then directly supervises the preparation of my meal, or at Culver, the manager makes it herself.

I'd be interested in knowing who's had the RAST dairy test?

Hello- Reading everyone's


Reading everyone's comments above has given me hope that I am indeed not crazy. I live in Virginia Beach, VA and for the past 2 years 4 months I have had severe symptoms which consist entirely of GI pain, bloating and generalized itching(no hives) occurring 3-6 hours after eating beef or pork. My first episode was after eating a ham sandwich in May of 2008. I've been a big red meat eater all of my life but suddenly I was unable to tolerate any beef or pork. Since then I have had upper GI tests, ultrasounds (all normal) and a HIDA scan which showed chronic cholecystitis with an ejection fraction of <5% (the GI pain is centered in the Right subcostal margin directly over the location of the gall bladder), a cholecystectomy which gave me a 3 month reduction of symptoms but they returned in full vengence in July of 2009and have been to the ER for treatment of a anaphylactic reaction after trying a "beef challenge" to see if Reglan would help ease the symptoms as the surgeon believed I had severe biliary reflux post cholecystectomy. On July 18, 2010,my husband, a Family Physician, read an article in the Virginian Pilot about the red meat allergy tick exposure connection. My son and I are avid geocachers (www.geocaching.com) and have spent many a weekend walking in the woods, poking around tall grasses and tromping through leaf piles. I've had at least 2 major seed tick exposures (Sept 15, 2007 and August 30, 2008, which upon magnification were determined to be lone star tick nymphs)and multiple other times I've found a tick here and there after a geocaching outing. Reading the article in the paper I commented to my husband that other than the anaphylaxis, the article could have been about me. I spoke with my primary care doctor and last week met with the allergist at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth. She had read about this allergy but I was the FIRST person she had seen that has the history and symptoms that could mean that I have the alpha gal allergy. She called me bright and early today with the test results. High positives to Beef (35) and Pork (18) (I can only remember those two numbers) along with positives to rabbit, cat, dog and lamb. The lab here in Tidewater does not have the test for alpha gal. So right now I finally have a preliminary diagnosis of an allergy to Beef, Pork, Rabbit and Lamb. On a side note, within the last 4 weeks I have been having an increase in GI symptoms after drinking cow's milk, eating cheese or ice cream, with a particularly bad episode occurring after eating at a Greek restaurant. Meal there included spiced feta cheese and tzatsiki on a chicken gyro.

I've been trying to contact Dr Commins since last week by phone but haven't heard back from him yet. I'm going to submit a timeline of events regarding my symptoms along with the serology test results from the allergist to the email address he listed above to see if I may qualify for further testing for alpha gal and any subsequent studies they may have at UVA.

I've bookmarked this blog -it was on the 6th page of results of my Google search - and look forward to supporting one another, and learning tips, swapping recipes and restaurant survival techniques from the veterans. I'm getting pretty inventive with 101 ways to cook chicken. Oh, and lucky me, I'm blood type O+.

Wow - so the only time I've

Wow - so the only time I've felt less crazy in the past four years than I do right now was when the docs at UNC finally listened to me, tested me, and told me I wasn't imagining the hives I kept breaking out in! I was diagnosed about 3 months ago after 4 years of no idea why or what was causing my problems - and my allergist acted like I was making it up, even when I managed to get to his office w/ hives still present! Looking back, just a few months before my first reaction, I managed to stumble into some muscadine vines loaded w/ seed ticks and ended up covered from the knees down on both legs. Who knew that misery was going to leave a calling card?

Eventually, my husband and I had the sense to realize that two of my reactions were post Brazilian churrascarias, so I started calling restaurants to find out if there was an unusual spice or ingredient that could be the problem...little realizing it was the meat iself! I stumbled on Dr.Commins research quite by accident, and in spite of my longing for some good down east bbq, I'm happy not itching!

A couple of interesting notes: first, I've discovered since I've virtually eliminated mammal meats that I previously had almost constant low level symptoms that I didn't recognize - itching on my scalp and around my ears. Since I've adopted an avoidance diet, I have no itching. Also, my reactions were sporadic, but I take Zyrtec every single day for hay fever type allergies, and the thinking appears to be that it may have had some effect in reducing my noticeable symptoms and major incidents.

Finally, I am an experimenter and have discovered I can eat a couple of slices of pepperoni pizza with no problems. Oddly though, bacon - just a couple of small slices - is a guaranteed reaction. Today I ordered a salad at lunch (a REALLY small salad!) and after it arrived, I realized it had hot bacon dressing. I thought, well, a little bacon grease, no big deal. Wow. I was really wrong! Which is why I'm posting, since I'm lying here waiting for the Benadryl to kick in and kill the relatively minor hives across my torso.

Anyway, I had asked UNC about a support group or website, but they didn't know of one, so I'm thankful to have found a community of fellow sufferers to empathize with and share experiences! My friends love me, but being allergic to meat is just weird enough to make people look at you funny! I look forward to learning more...

Hi again all, I thought I

Hi again all,
I thought I would add another reaction anomaly that I've experienced, as we share info and try to make sense out of the cause and effect of our reactions to eating mammals and mammalian by-products. Before I associated my allergic reactions to eating mammals, I'd eaten quite a bit of lamb when travelling in the U.K. I've never had an allergic reaction in the U.K. But whenever I ate lamb in the U.S., I ended up with anaphalactic symptoms. Maybe I'm just throwing in a red herring here, but I noticed in an article recently that the U.K. doesn't permit genetically modified seeds (like in the corn we feed our animals) nor do they permit cloned animals to be slaughtered for human consumption. Maybe the lamb anomaly is related to the lipid issue mentioned by Dr. Commins - hard to say.

As I said in an earlier post, I used to have some form of reaction at least every 1 or 2 months going on 30 yrs. now and tried to avoid all foods with sulfites - thinking that was the problem (which obviously didn't work so well). Since I've eliminated mammals from my diet, I haven't had a reaction for months. I won't try it but I wonder what would happen if I ate lamb the next time I visit the U.K.

Today, I found this blog and

Today, I found this blog and it made me feel I have finally found comfort knowing others are battling this situation. My mammalian meat allergies began in the mid-1990s while living in Virginia. I have always been the type to spend as much time in the outdoors...and I seem to be a "tick-magnet"! In 1995, I was hiking thru a forest and came in contact of a ticks nest. I had over 86 very small sized tick on my lower body. Due to the small size of the ticks, it took scotch tape and duct tape to remove the imbeeded parasites. A few weeks following the event, I became sick with a low grade fever and was very lethargic. My internal medicine doc perscribed a regiment of prophylactic antiobiothics for 30 days. The first anaphylactic reaction came from consuming farm raised buffalo. Time passed and soon I experienced reactions to consuming beef and after 1-1/2 years after elimenating beef products, I had a severe reaction to pork! Strangely enough, I have always been lactose intolerant and these items have always been elimneated from my diet. I have always had horses and competed in horse events. Two years ago, I noticed the horse sweat was turning my arms and legs bright red with wheps. Now when I bath and clean my horse, I have to wear vet style gloves to prevent contact with the sweat from contact with my skin. Other clothing and larger saddle blanketing and other barrier measures have been taken to during riding. I think in 1997 I had the typical allergy testing and nothing showed positive other than the typical grasses and weeds. Presently, I live a avoidance of mammal meat life and over the past decade have only had two mild reactions that are still unexplainable.

I look forward to future research findings!

It is unfortunate that there

It is unfortunate that there isn't a support group for you folks where you can share tips and helpful ways to cope. But I am glad that you have met up here! I just sent an email to one of the authors of the Australian study inviting him/her to stop by. We'll see.

I have been dealing with this

I have been dealing with this red meat allergy since last Aug '09 and thanks to the internet found the articles from the U of VA a few months after my initial outbreaks of hives. I live in Little Rock, AR where I had a couple of tick bites, AND massive chigger bites and only three days afterwards broke out with hives from head to toe in the middle of the night. fortunately I kept a diary of what I was eating and figured out the trigger after five or six outbreaks and read the article from the Univ. of VA. I have since avoided red meats and have not had any more bad reactions. I had a mild reaction after eating a slice of pepperoni pizza but I have eaten a hot dog - pork and chicken - and another time a 1/2 of a ham sandwich before I realized what I did and did not have a reaction. It's good to read of others experiences since I have been tempted to test my reactions. I still have not felt 100% or back to normal, and I will avoid the dairy products to see if it helps. My doctor did give me a round of antibiotics. I'm not sure that it helped, but the last few times I've had a reaction it has been much milder. and yes, I'm one of the lucky A+ blood types! I do want to say a special THANK YOU to Scott Commins for his work and interest in this study!

Glad to Alice - and I'm sure

Glad to Alice - and I'm sure they will. It isn't like we have a lot of support groups out here. It's nice to know you're not alone.

Chris, thank you for your

Chris, thank you for your post and your tips for coping with this allergy! I sure hope that some of the other people that have posted here will check this blog again.

Wow. My wife and I chuckled

Wow. My wife and I chuckled as we read this. It's almost like a homecoming; a reunion of sorts. For so many years I wondered what was going on. (Just imagine how many are out there just learning)!

I first presented with symptoms 12 years ago. The first thing to go was red meat. Soon after (roughly two months) I lost milk. Within a few months of that, cheese, butter, and gelatin disappeared. By 'left' and 'disappeared', I mean of course my tolerance. My reactions aren't like those I've read though: that 'oh - oh' feeling for me is increased mucous production. It begins within 45-60 minutes of consumption, and then the stomach bloating starts. And that lasts for roughly six to eight hours. It comes in waves - that is, there are periods between 'critical masses' that I'm not so bad off. I actually measure my reactions by those down periods - I get about three down periods (four critical mass periods) with each reaction.

It begins with increased mucous, and then internal bloating. Usually that's where it ends. But, mind you, by bloating I mean like - my stomach is about to rip apart, bloating.

Pork is the absolute worst - by far. With pork, the above symptoms are accompanied by the worst hives I've ever dreamed of. Quantity has very little to do with it. An eye dropper full of the offending mammalian constituent will send me into an 'oh - oh'.

Thank you SOOO much for this forum. I don't know where to begin ... let me start with something that may help the good doctor. I'm blood type A+. Also, I am a field biologist in North Carolina. I cover the state, but work more in eastern NC than anywhere. Ticks are to my profession like paperwork is to most others. I think that perhaps the number of bites may contribute to the severity (I have no tongue, lip, or throat swelling; I've never been to the ER - BUT I did lose all mammal related products gradually).

To those of you figuring' this out ... first, I'm sorry - second, DO NOT EXPERIMENT. It's here, and it ain't going away. Remember George Orwell's Animal Farm; 'Four legs, Baa'aaad'.

Tips I've compiled: Fast food restaurants are just plain bad. If you have to, at McDonalds chicken Mc-nuggets are ok. At Burger King - the classic chicken sandwich is ok. Once or twice I had trouble with the latter, but I think one of the preparers may have cross contaminated. At subway - a turkey sub on white bread with no cheese is ok.

At home - Tofutti cheese is a God-send. It melts like cheese, browns if you cook it long enough, and the taste is a good approximation. That company (Tofutti) acutually has a lot of good products. Jimmy-Dean turkey sausage has saved my life (I prefer links over pattys, but whatever suits you). If you like cheap meats, Walmart carrys a line of turkey I live on - The company is 'Pride of the Farm' and the meat comes in plastic wrapped tubes. They make italian and breakfast sausage, plain turkey meat, and taco seasoned meat. They're all pretty good.

Fearing for lack of vitamins in my diet, I tried supplements ... only to find that all (every one I tried anyway) use some mammal product to gell them together (Gelatin (jello) is made from cow's hooves). Try Isotonix Multivitamins. They're a little steep as far as multi-vitamins go, but good. It's a powder form, just a cap-full in a cup of water and it tastes like lemonade. No mammals in it.

My email is cdhopper71@yahoo.com. My name is Chris, and I would LOVE to share the day-to-day trials with anyone who cares to share. I'm sorry for the 30-year veteran above, BOY am I sorry, but to the rest of you I've been at this a while and I think maybe we can help each other live regular lives by sharing tips.

I have had an allergy to

I have had an allergy to mammal meat since early in 1981, when I ate a sausage biscuit and ended up in the ER being tested for a myocardial infarction (no infarction). Over the next several months, I tested negative for gall bladder problems, seafood allergy, vegetable allergy, and several other things. The only thing that caused a problem was mammal meat, including vegetables cooked with side meat.

That was nearly 30 years ago. It's entirely possible that I was bitten by a tick--heck, I've been bitten by many ticks over my lifetime, as Eastern North Carolina is a prime location for ticks.

I'm happy not eating mammal meat, and after all this time, I wouldn't have any reason to start back. I've been using soy milk since it became available in the supermarkets 15-20 years ago, and I'm fine with that too. What worries me is eating in restaurants, where sometimes orders get mixed up and I may get, say, bacon on the plate with my eggs. One time when that happened, the waitress didn't get me a new order of eggs, she just put the contaminated eggs on a clean plate. Within 20 minutes, I had broken out in hives and was considering a trip to the ER.

Would any allergic study anywhere want to add a person who has an almost 30-year history with this allergy?

Thank you, Dr. Commins, for

Thank you, Dr. Commins, for taking time out of your busy day to post here! I think you have answered everyones questions. I now see why people experience different types of reactions and why some people react to dairy and some do not. I'm sure that those with this allergy will be glad to see that research is ongoing.

Hello all, I've enjoyed

Hello all,
I've enjoyed reading through your comments, questions and personal experiences with this allergy. While it's probably too much to respond to each individual question / comment, I will give some general thoughts.

Clinically, we are beginning to suspect that the delay may be explained or associated in part with the absorption of fat / lipids. Venison, a lean meat, almost never creates a problem despite the presence of alpha-gal in that meat (we've assayed for it). Additionally, fat delays the absorption of carbohydrates and fat itself is absorbed by a process that takes several hours. So, the notion that various cuts or forms of meat produce differing symptoms (or no symptoms) would be in keeping with our experience as well.

Currently, the University of Virginia offers an IgE test for alpha-gal (Medical Laboratories information and directions: 434.924.2291) as does IBT labs (www.ibtlabs.com - test code is 30039 (CPT code 86003)). Often, however, no additional testing beyond the mammalian foods is necessary. Most patients with titers less than 2-3 IU/mL are able to tolerate some, if not most, modest amount of mammalian meat. That being said, there does appear to be a dose above which even these patients experience reactions. Not only does the dose seem important, but also the form (e.g., pork rinds, bar-b-que, pâté). Subjects with lower levels of the allergy can still react, especially when meat is in the "correct" form (high lipids) and dose. If someone with a low level ate a ham sandwich, they'd probably never have any trouble with that form of the meat. That being said, avoidance is key and I'd certainly advocate continuing to abstain from mammalian meat. If you're having any "lingering" symptoms or just not feeling 'right', you might consider giving up milk - some folks with really bad reactions have found that helpful. If you're feeling fine, though, I'd suggest keeping milk in your diet as it may offer some amount of tolerance. If symptoms are still present with avoidance diets, it may well be that we should arrange a time for consultation.

There are some initial signs that the antibody level goes down over time, so high initial levels are likely not a forever deal. The antibody probably takes 2-3 weeks to develop after the bites. If someone eats mammalian meat infrequently, and then it would need to be in a "correct" form at that - it might be difficult to connect the meat reaction back to the bites and certainly the two would seem to be completely distinct events. We are planning to embark on a study that will involve monitoring for the development of tolerance to meat. As of now, though, there is no current "cure".

We do know of patients throughout the Southeast, extending west into Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and southern Illinois. We have heard of a few folks with this allergy in the Northeast as well. Australia is another location with the same issue. In addition to the food allergy research aspect of this, we are planning to embark on studies relating to the tick component.

Best regards,
Scott Commins

I emailed Dr. Commins telling

I emailed Dr. Commins telling him about this blog and all of your comments and questions. Hopefully, he will join us here.

I am wondering if anyone has

I am wondering if anyone has had any affects from eating animal by-products, such as gelatin or jello. Last night I had a jello fruit salad and didn't think anything of it. Fortunately, no reaction. Anyone else heard of a reaction or been given advice to stay away from it? Thanks and this blog is a tremendous resource.

Hey fellow sufferers, I'm

Hey fellow sufferers,
I'm from Missouri and appear to have similar problems to all of you. I've been reacting to "something" since my late 20's with hives or uticaria - averaging about once every 2 months. I thought that it was a sulfite allergy just because it seemed to be a "hidden" ingredient.

But within the last year, I've started having reactions that involve uticaria and angioedema. I was able to link the reactions to red meat because I'd stopped eating it by choice (after smelling the stench of a feed lot when traveling through Nebraska for miles.) Then when I decided to eat locally raised red meat, every time I ate it, bam, hives and angioedema. So, I quit eating red meat but the other night thought that just one rib wouldn't hurt. Hives and swelling, difficulty breathing as before, but less since I ate less.

As for tickes, oh yeah, we have lots of them here. I probably have at least one or two tick bites a year. I can still eat dairy though.

It's very scary stuff and appreciate all of you sharing your experiences. I don't go anywhere without benadryl and an epi-pin.

Steve, Don't you think it is

Don't you think it is really odd that all this attention is given to ticks that are apparently specific to this area? Can that make sense? How is it that ticks from Texas and ticks from California don't cause this problem? And then Autralia, too??
That is really interesting about your reactions to Dairy Queen. I have had similar reactions to Chik-fil-A shakes, DQ, and Sonic. I have never had a problem with real ice cream, milk, or cheese, so I have always been suspicious of whatever chemicals are added to the shake mixes or soft serve at the other places.

Mike, My first reaction


My first reaction was on Memorial Day 2009.

My next reaction was not until September. I am certain I had pepperoni pizza and deli meat between these episodes with little or no ill effect. I appear to be more sensitive at this point and the rationale behind that is not fully understood.

Dairy Queen seems to effect me, McDonald's does not. I also had a brief period of rapid heart rate and flushing after eating a large yogurt from a local shop I've frequented for years. Again, my theory is that my immune system is 'suspicious' of anything that is chemically similar to the products of beef fat digestion – but I could be wrong. Then again, UVA Cardiology, Endicronology as well as Martha Jefferson Gastroenterology, Emergency Room physicians, and my General Practitioner completely missed this whole thing for seven months.

I grew up in Bedford County and my parents live there.