Nashville, TN, United States (4E) – Bites from lone star ticks have caused a few residents of the U.S. Southeast to develop red meat allergy. The bites trigger an allergic reaction to alpha-gal, a type of sugar found in red meat.
In Tennessee, one or more cases a week were reported by partner clinics of the Vanderbilt Asthma Sinus and Allergy Program in March, Dr. Robert Valet, an allergist said.
The antibody count of people with alpha-gal allergy skyrockets to 20 times over after getting tick bites. Allergy symptoms include rashes, inflammation, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, anaphylactic shock and even death. Valet noted that the severity of symptoms differ per patient.
Contrary to popular belief, red meat allergies are not uncommon, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). ACCAI cited a study by researchers from the University of Virginia (UV) that showed 50 percent of unexplained food allergies are correlated with eating mammalian meat such as pork, beef and lamb. Results of the study revealed that 20 to 50 percent of the participants who had anaphylactic shock due to unknown causes in the past tested positive for alpha-gal allergy.
Alpha-gal, which is scientifically known as galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, is present in mammalian meat. About 42 percent of the participants exhibited symptoms of meat allergy, the study said.
In December, a Swedish study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology proved the strong link between red meat allergy and tick bites and B-negative blood group. Only two of the 39 participants or 95 percent with a history of meat allergy and immune reaction to alpha-gals in non-primate mammalian meat previously had an allergic reaction to ticks. Those two did not have an A or O blood type nor tested positive to allergies to the European I. ricinus tick.
The study was led by Dr. Marianne van Hage of the Karolinska Instituet and University Hospital in Stockholm.
The use of pesticides and repellents is one of the surefire ways of getting rid of lone star ticks, which emerge from their habitats in spring and warmer months. Cities like Malibu and Calabasas in California are in the process of adopting policies preventing the use of chemical repellents for pest management and encourage residents to use all-natural pesticides instead.
Those who shy away from the use of chemical insecticides and pesticides can resort to natural ones. One of the popular natural insecticides and pesticides for home use, Nature-Cide, is made from natural oils derived from herbs, flowers and spices. The Nature-Cide Green Bug All-Natural Pest Control for People is based on cedar oil and liquid quartz. Another product, Bien Ella All Natural DEET-free Bug Repellent, is made from herbs and essential oils as well as soybean and coconut oils.
Pesticides like these effectively ward off pests with their smell. Pests hate the smell of citrus and aromatic herbs. Nature-Cide works by prematurely causing insects to shed off their exoskeleton while developing neurological disorders that cause death in many species of insects.