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A mysterious meat allergy. Alpha-gal syndrome. It can be caused by ticks

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new research revealing the secrets of a surprising allergy – alpha-gal syndrome. People who suffer from it cannot eat certain types of meat and animal products. A certain species of ticks may be responsible for its increasing prevalence.

More and more people suffer from meat allergies. Scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the condition could affect hundreds of thousands of Americans.

The so-called alpha-gal syndrome, which causes a severe, potentially life-threatening allergy to meat, is beginning to affect a growing percentage of the population, according to the latest CDC analysis released Thursday. Researchers have discovered that species ticks may be responsible for the spread of the disease Amblyomma americanum. Substances that cause allergies are contained in their saliva and are introduced into the human body through a bite. This arachnid is easy to recognize because it has a characteristic white spot on the abdomen. It is found mainly in the southern and eastern parts of the United States, but as the CDC warns, its range is expanding as climate change progresses.

A number of symptoms

The CDC reassures that the consumption of not all types of meat in case of infection can end in misfortune. The list of dangerous products includes pork, beef, rabbit, lamb, venison, as well as gelatin, milk, some dairy products and medicines.

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According to the researchers, the symptoms of this syndrome mainly include stomach cramps, diarrhoea, hives, shortness of breath, drop in blood pressure, swelling of the lips, throat, tongue or eyelids, dizziness, fainting, and anaphylactic shock. However, reactions can vary from person to person – some may not show any symptoms of infection at all. However, if anaphylaxis does occur, contact your doctor urgently.

Ticks of the species Amblyomma americanumondreicka/AdobeStock

Difficult to diagnose

The CDC said more than 110,000 potential cases of the disease have been detected worldwide since 2010. In the period 2017-2021, it increased by about 15,000 each year.

However, due to the difficulty of diagnosis, the CDC reports that up to 450,000 Americans in total may be predisposed to allergic symptoms due to alpha-gal syndrome. According to a survey of 1,500 doctors and healthcare professionals last year, up to 42 percent of them had never heard of the syndrome. Moreover, around a third of respondents said they were “not quite sure” that they would be able to identify the disease. Only five percent of doctors said they were “very confident” in this ability.

“Alpha-gal syndrome is an important emerging public health problem with potentially serious health consequences that may be lifelong for some patients. It is very important that doctors are aware of the risk so that they can properly assess, diagnose and treat their patients, as well as educate them about tick bite prevention, said Dr. Ann Carpenter, an epidemiologist and lead author of the study.

Alpha-gal was discovered by accident in 2008, when American scientists discovered surprising relationships during a test of a substance used in pharmacotherapy in the treatment of cancer.

Experts warn people to remember about proper protection against ticks and regularly check their bodies – especially after trips to forests or parks. They also recommended the use of arachnid repellents. They added that thanks to this, the population has a chance to protect themselves from other tick-borne diseases.

In Poland, alpha-gal syndrome was also recognized – in 2021, the first case of the disease was described by researchers from Police and Krakow.

Ticks and Lyme disease. Facts and mythsNational forests

Main photo source: ondreicka/AdobeStock

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