In some parts of the country, emergency room physicians have been faced with a puzzling scenario: the patient awakens in the middle of the night with unbearable itching, hives, low blood pressure or trouble breathing. Usually, such an anaphylactic reaction is an immediate response to an exposure like an insect sting. But these people have been in bed for hours.
We talk with a patient who had this frightening experience and with the allergist who treated him. We also learn about the discovery of this improbable allergy to red meat, triggered by the bite of a tick.
Guests: Mike Beck is a health and welfare consultant with Hill, Chesson & Woody.
Maya Jerath, MD, PhD, is Mike’s doctor. She is director of the UNC Allergy and Immunology Clinic and assistant professor in Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Thomas Platts-Mills, MD
, is professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Virginia and head of the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. He is past president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI). You can find an abstract of his May, 2011, article here.
The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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  1. Tom Cribbs
    Murfreesboro, TN
    Reply

    I too have the Alfa gal allergy. I am interested to know if the fat content from the red meat and dairy increases the severity of the reaction. I only have reactions to dairy that are high in fat content. Also the leaner the beef and pork the less problems I have. A hamburger will send me to the moon!

  2. Mike
    Southeastern US
    Reply

    If you are a Veteran with this condition, you CAN, with persistence get the VA to recognize this condition. I don’t think that you will be able to get any disability rating for it, but they will pay for the tests and and give you epi-pens and benadryl. It took over 14 months of visiting, writing and phoning both the VA and my Senator, but eventually they gave in. Don’t allow the Fee Based Clerks to snow you – keep fighting. (I had one Fee-Based Clerk tell me that if I persisted that I might lose my pension….)

  3. Trey
    Tulsa, OK
    Reply

    Why and who is doing research to find a cure to this?????? There are now thousands of people afflicted by this, and no one has found a resolution yet….. Very disappointing…..

  4. cgc
    Reply

    I’ve known to avoid mammalian meat (and mm products – cheese, butter, milk, etc.) for 3.5 years. Prior to that my diagnosis was ‘idiopathic anaphylaxsis’. My current concerns center on medications that contain mammalian meat products such as gelatin, lactose, etc…. gelatin is used as a heat protectant in flu vaccines and Spireva(sp?) to name just 2 medicines.
    Listening to the August 2013 radio broadcast, could the cancer drug mentioned contain mammalian meat products/product?
    Is this even an issue? If so, is any data available? Is the allergy only evidenced digestively?
    Because none of my physicians (including 2 allergists) can conclusively answer my questions, I’m leery of most medications.
    Any advice or information sources?
    People’s Pharmacy response: The cancer drug mentioned doesn’t contain mammalian meat products, but it does contain a sugar very similar to the one that causes the reaction. Your questions are excellent, but we don’t think any research exists to answer them.

  5. Julie E.
    Reply

    I am 19 years old and have had this allergy for almost two years now and am constantly finding new things I outbreak too. In the beginning I had a hard time eating peanut butter products and red dye. Now I am finding that I am allergic to vinegar as well. I just don’t understand this allergy. It is so unpredictable. Recently, I have noticed that when I become sick (flu, stomach bug) I have an outbreak the next day even though I have eaten nothing for almost 24 hours. Anyone else experience this?

  6. cgc
    Reply

    It’s important to refer to this as an allergy to ‘mammalian’ meat rather than an allergy to ‘red’ meat. The word ‘mammalian’ (any animal that nurses it’s young) is specific to meat that is off limits.
    I will always miss a good rib eye steak, Lexington style BBQ, cheese and butter but feel so good and healthy without these foods in my diet. Cheese and butter don’t cause an anaphylactic response but do negatively affect my digestion process.

  7. RP
    Reply

    My mother has had this allergy for approximately 27 years. I have had it for 20 years, my wife for 15 and we know numerous friends and acquaintances who are afflicted. Very glad to hear the subject is gaining wider notice and understanding.
    While I miss consuming all red meats my dietary shift has been accommodated by the growing choice of alternative protien sources. I must admit that because of this affliction I have become better informed about nutrition and the food chain. The ill-treatment of animals including fowl for mass production has become distasteful. The wide use of antibiotics and growth hormones is a concern as well. I feel I owe the tick a debt of gratitude by forcing on me this reevaluation.

  8. Lea
    Reply

    My allergist had my alpha gal test done and I live in NW Arkansas. It took almost 8 days, but she knew automatically what it was.

  9. gs
    Reply

    Was I ever blown away from the 8/3 radio program on this subject. However, no one has mentioned one of my symptoms, which is dry/numb mouth which began 1/30/13 and has not yet abated entirely. Sometimes it is worse than others, notice it especially after meals (anything.) But within 30 days of this presentation, 2/24/13, I woke up with angio-edema on lower face, mouth, tongue and roof of mouth. I looked like I had had Botox injections. Off to Urgent-Care at 9:00 am and the first thing dr said was “what did you eat last night?” Only a hamburger (I made), nothing unusual.
    12 days of predisone later (and benadryl once a day at night for some time) and no episode like that again. Neck itching I have had off and on for years, and that was/is still occasionally prevalent. I have eaten meat for years — before and since this — without this severe reaction, but did have a tick bite last summer which was on the back of my ankle for over 24 hrs and not easy to remove. It did itch, and now there is a small, hard kernel under the skin where the wound was. I want to know where to get the blood-test for Alpha-Gal. Dr mentioned UVA had a patent on it. Do you have to go to UVA? I live in Roanoke, VA.
    People’s Pharmacy response: Your doctor will need to inquire about the test.

  10. D.L.N.
    Reply

    Remember to mention that that rat or mice cells in prescription drugs can cause the reaction and if they are injected like they were to me (I have the allergy), the reaction is immediate. I got a very bad reaction to an injectable drug and it was immediate so we need to be careful of this reaction as well. This was the first time I had to go to the hospital for the allergy.

  11. LG
    Reply

    I live in the Triangle as well, and I went to see Dr. Jerath who is featured in this broadcast, she is at UNC. she says that most people with this can tolerate dairy, which is obviously also a mammalian product, but not everyone can.
    I know someone with alpha gal who consumed dairy regularly without problems until one day when he had an anaphylactic reaction. Sounds like you may also have trouble with it. I avoid dairy because I feel better when I do and I don’t want to risk any more terrible reactions like I had for years until I heard the original broadcast of this show which literally changed my life.

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