Check out the short NPR article, “Rare Meat Allergy Caused By Tick Bites May Be On The Rise,” which offers a brief overview of the allergy and its increasing distribution (as far away as Hawaii!). The ScienceNOW article by the same author, entitled “Ticked Off About a Growing Allergy to Meat,” has more info, including a map from Viracor-IBT (providers of the commercial test for the alpha-gal allergy) showing regional rates of mammalian meat allergy.
Dr. Platts-Mills was on Richmond, Virginia’s NBC12 on October 25 to talk about the link between the alpha-gal allergy and bites of the lone star tick. Check out his interview and one family’s scary story from a trip to Jamaica here. The video should be up for the next two weeks, but the print article will stay online.
Here’s an excerpt from an essay written by blog reader Jonathan Kime for Oxford American Magazine. We highly recommend you check out the rest of his humorous piece at the Oxford American website. Thanks for sending this our way, Jonathan!
“I never thought I’d say this, but I’m starting to feel less Southern.
It’s not that I’m married to a woman from New York. It’s not that I work for an international health organization with staff members spread across fifteen countries. It’s not even that I live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a liberal college town the late Senator Jessie Helms infamously suggested putting a fence around in lieu of building a state zoo. It’s that I can’t eat pork.
There’s no vegetarian conspiracy at work here. When I told my cousin—who lives in a decidedly more rural area of the state than I do—that I couldn’t eat pork, he said, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. You mean you won’t eat pork.” I wish it were that easy, because then it would be something I could just snap the hell out of. A lot of Carolinians seem to have little capacity to understand this. In a way it’s like saying that if it’s not my own fault, if I didn’t choose to stop eating pork, then fate must be at work, or that God must have done this to me. If you want a North Carolinian to question his faith, tell him God won’t let him eat pork chops.
I realize I have some explaining to do. It’s not just pork I can’t eat; I’m allergic to something called alpha-galactose, a carbohydrate present in all mammals. Or at least all non-primate mammals. Say what you want about my rural, public-school education, but when the allergist told me this, I knew precisely what she was talking about. However, I have met some very educated people who have needed a refresher on the definitions of mammals and primates, so here goes: I can’t eat anything with fur except monkeys, which I have no interest in eating and probably can’t readily source in North Carolina anyway, not even at Whole Foods.”
I’m sure many of you have been having a difficult time finding vegetarian, poultry, or seafood alternatives for some of your former favorite foods. One of our new readers had the great suggestion to create a place where you all could share your favorite allergy-friendly recipes. If you have any ideas, feel free to post them here and help out your fellow meat allergy sufferers!
P.S. Gary at Rock Creek Valley Farm has also compiled an extensive list of alpha-gal friendly recipes here.
Through our research on mammalian meat allergy, we’ve realized not everyone with a new meat allergy fits the alpha-gal allergy symptoms – namely, some of our patients have more immediate symptoms and they are negative for IgE antibodies to alpha-gal. Pork-cat syndrome has been described previously in the European medical literature, but we recently presented data on the first six documented pork-cat patients in the United States at an allergy meeting, and you can read up on that here.