Researchers appear to have uncovered a link between tick bites and meat allergies.

According to allergists from the University of Virginia, an estimated 1,500 Americans are allergic to meat, recognized clinically as an allergy to galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (or alpha-gal). According to their research, the saliva of a tick could cause the allergy to develop.

The researchers explain that if saliva enters the tick bite wound, it could cause the immune system to respond to meat with an allergic reaction. Dr. Scott Commins, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Charlottesville, explains “People will eat beef and then anywhere from three to six hours later start having a reaction; anything from hives to full-blown anaphylactic shock.”

How does it work?

Researchers noticed an increased prevalence of the allergy in the East Coast and the Bible Belt region, where Lone Star ticks are plentiful. Patients who have the alpha-gal allergy also have at least one tick bite. Dr. Commins noted that the link between tick bites and meat allergies is difficult to prove, and that scientists are “still searching for the mechanism” that causes the allergy to develop. “Perhaps there is an organism in the tick’s saliva that makes a person allergic to the alpha-gal sugar in mammalian meat,” Commins speculated.

The researchers said that the easiest way to avoid developing an allergy to meat is to avoid ticks. If you know or suspect that you have become allergic to meat, the only way to avoid an allergy attack is to avoid consuming meat. “There is no current medication to treat food allergies,” reminded Dr. Commins.

Do you think it’s possible to get a food allergy as the result of a tick bite?

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