John Grisham’s Allergy Mystery

I know we haven’t posted in a while, but we are keeping very busy researching alpha-gal. Here’s an interesting article from the April issue of Allergic Living on John Grisham’s meat allergy. Check it out!


Could your meat allergy be pork-cat syndrome?

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.

The People’s Pharmacy interview with Dr. Jerath on mammalian meat allergy

Dr. Jerath will be on The People’s Pharmacy on Saturday, October 1, speaking about the allergy to alpha-gal! For a list of radio stations  and broadcast times, you can visit The People’s Pharmacy’s site. A podcast of the show will also be available on Monday here, where you can read about the upcoming radio segment.

Notes from a Reader

A very informative note from a reader (published with their permission):

I just recently found your website after reading an online article about tick-related meat allergies.  You may have solved a 20-year-old allergy mystery I’ve had.  Although I had never previously experienced an allergic reaction to any food or medication, in approximately 1991 I began experiencing increasingly severe allergic reactions (primarily severe hives).  Eventually I was able to isolate the cause to fast food hamburgers, and I was further able to determine the problem was beef of any kind.  The unusual aspect of the allergic reactions was their delayed onset.  Hives would begin to appear exactly 6 hours after consuming beef.  And I do mean EXACTLY; I could virtually set a watch by symptom onset.  Before I was able to isolate the exact cause of my allergy, the reactions became severe enough to be considered life threatening, increasing in severity with each reaction until I was experiencing severe anaphylaxis.  Since isolating beef as the cause of my reactions, I was able to prevent further incidences by avoiding any food containing beef.  I could eat chicken and pork without problems.  Being an avid deer hunter, I also ate quite a bit of venison, without problems.

Approximately two years ago, suspecting my allergy was related to preservatives in beef products, I began testing my ability to consume “free-range” beef.  I found I could eat it without reaction.  I further tested my histamine system by sampling small amounts of commercial beef on up through fast food hamburgers, with no reaction.  Over the last year I have been freely eating beef with no problems, until a few weeks ago when I again had a 6-hour delayed allergic reaction (hives) to a fast-food hamburger.  Since that most recent reaction, I have stopped eating fast food beef.

Being an avid deer hunter, and actually working in the hunting industry (Consulting Wildlife Biologist), I am in the woods and fields of Tennessee and other Southeastern State almost daily.  Through the 1980s and ‘90s, I would experience tick bites on a regular basis; easily a dozen or more per year, with literally hundreds of chigger bites.  However, since the commercial availability of Permanone (Permethrin) insecticide, my tick/chigger bite numbers have declined dramatically.  My work clothing is fully sprayed with Permethrin before every field day.  I now probably receive only one or two tick bites and a dozen or more chigger bites per year.

Interesting article about John Grisham

In a recent interview with Parade magazine, Charlottesville resident John Grisham stated that he can no longer eat beef or pork due to “a weird food allergy”.  Check out the full interview here.

Vitamin B12

We have heard from a number of people with this allergy who have sought care from complementary and alternative medical providers for help with their symptoms.  Many of their providers have recommended that they take large doses of a vitamin B12 to help decrease their allergic symptoms.   Based on anecdotal evidence from a very small number of people, we can say that it does seem to help some people feel better.  It is possible that when some people cut out mammalian meat, they end up with low vitamin B12  levels.  A little more about vitamin B12:

From Bolognia: Dermatology, 2nd edition:

Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin/hydroxocobalamin) is contained in animal products.   It is involved in the synthesis of DNA.  Vitamin B12 deficiency may result from inadequate intake, as in strict vegetarianism, but most cases of deficiency are due to malabsorption secondary to one of the following: a decrease in gastric intrinsic factor (pernicious anemia), removal of part or all of the stomach, surgical resection of the small intestine, or overgrowth of intestinal bacteria.  Body stores of vitamin B12 are large, so a period of 3 to 6 years is required to develop deficiency states.

People who stop eating mammalian meat (and do not eat a variety of other animal products, fortified grains or supplements) could be at risk for low levels of vitamin B12.  See the chart below for food sources of vitamin B12.


In an assessment of the vitamin B12 levels in a variety of meat, the American Meat Institute Foundation (AMIF) found the following:

Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Vitamin B12

Food Micrograms (mcg)
per serving
Percent DV*
Liver, beef, braised, 1 slice 48.0 800
Clams, cooked, breaded and fried, 3 ounces 34.2 570
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 100% of the DV for vitamin B12, 1 serving 6.0 100
Trout, rainbow, wild, cooked, 3 ounces 5.4 90
Salmon, sockeye, cooked, 3 ounces 4.9 80
Trout, rainbow, farmed, cooked, 3 ounces 4.2 50
Beef, top sirloin, broiled, 3 ounces 2.4 40
Cheeseburger, double patty and bun, 1 sandwich 1.9 30
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 25% of the DV for vitamin B12, 1 serving 1.5 25
Yogurt, plain, 1 cup 1.4 25
Haddock, cooked, 3 ounces 1.2 20
Tuna, white, 3 ounces 1.0 15
Milk, 1 cup 0.9 15
Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce 0.9 15
Beef taco, 1 taco 0.8 13
Ham, cured, roasted, 3 ounces 0.6 10
Egg, large, 1 whole 0.6 10
Chicken, roasted, ½ breast 0.3 6

Skincare and alpha-gal

A blog reader recently wrote to ask if we knew of any connection between skin products containing lanolin or milk proteins and allergic reactions.  She is alpha-gal positive and has had itching on her hands and face after using products with those ingredients.  Before she became alpha-gal positive, she did not have any issues with lanolin or milk proteins on her skin.  The reader recently stopped using any products with these ingredients and has not had any itching since then.  It is possible that such products contain a small amount of alpha-gal.  Has anyone else had this problem?