Chattanoogans Reporting Symptoms Of New Food Allergy To Local Allergist

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Dr. Susan Raschal
Dr. Susan Raschal

Covenant Allergy and Asthma Care has reported evidence of a new type of food allergy in the Chattanooga area that actually stems from a tick or chigger bite. In the past month, three patients presented to Covenant’s East Brainerd office with reports of a recent tick or chigger bite along with hives, itching, difficulty breathing, and/or symptoms of a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

“We are seeing symptoms of an allergic reaction to mammalian meat,” said Susan Raschal, DO, a board-certified allergist in Chattanooga. “But the allergic reaction doesn’t happen until a person is first bitten by a tick or chigger and then later ingests the meat that comes from a mammal such as beef, pork, lamb, venison, goat or bison.”

Researchers at the University of Virginia recently discovered that when certain people are bitten by ticks or chiggers, the bite appears to set off a chain of reactions in the body.  One of these reactions is the production of an allergic class of antibody that binds to a carbohydrate present on meat called galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose, also known as alpha-gal.  When a person with the alpha-gal antibody eats mammalian meat, the meat triggers the release of histamine.  Histamine is a compound found in the body that causes allergic symptoms like hives, itching and, in the worst case, anaphylaxis (a reaction that leads to sudden weakness, swelling of the throat, lips and tongue, difficulty breathing and/or unconsciousness).

“This is the first time we have seen this particular food allergy in our office, and I haven’t heard of any other cases in the area,” said Dr. Raschal. “After patients said their symptoms came several hours after ingesting the mammalian meat, we knew this wasn’t a typical food allergy. Most known food allergy reactions can cause the same symptoms but are immediate.”

Recently, researchers at the University of Virginia first discovered the connection between anaphylaxis and the use of a cancer treatment called cetuximab.  Anaphylaxis to this medication was only occurring in regions in the southeastern United States that have a specific tick, the lonestar tick.  Later, research revealed that these patients had experienced tick or chigger bites and had developed an allergic antibody to alpha-gal.  Alpha-gal is present in all lower mammals such as beef, pork, and lamb, thus causing a food allergy for patients with the alpha-gal antibody if they consume the meat of these animals. 

“Currently we are treating this with epinephrine, which causes the allergic reaction to subside and go-away,” said Dr. Raschal. “The only way to prevent this allergic reaction is to avoid mammalian meat. Usually, levels of the alpha-gal decrease over time if the person doesn’t receive any other tick or chigger bites.”

For additional information regarding this topic, please contact Kelly Davis at Covenant Allergy and Asthma Care.



VIDEO: New Hospice Care Center

A new Hospice Care Center has moved across from Erlanger Health System on 3rd Street. It will open  on Monday . (click for more)

State Representatives Gerald McCormick And Ron Travis To Serve On Wellness Caucus

State Representatives Gerald McCormick and Ron Travis announced Wednesday that they will serve on a Wellness Caucus created by members of the Tennessee General Assembly and in collaboration with the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness.   The caucus is chaired by State Representative Ryan Williams and Senator Bo Watson. It consists of 37 members from both the House ... (click for more)

3 People Shot Early Saturday Morning; 1 Is Killed; 2 Victims Are Known Gang Members

Ladarius Cross, 28, Terrance Careathers, 26, and a juvenile were shot early Saturday morning. Cross was killed.   Chattanooga Police responded to a motor vehicle crash at 5:16 a.m. in the 1400 block of Roanoke Avenue.   Upon arrival, Chattanooga Police Officers located the single vehicle crash with two people suffering for apparent gunshot wounds. The driver, ... (click for more)

Longest-Serving County Official Knowles Is First In Line To Sign Up For New Term

Bill Knowles is one of the longest-serving officials in Hamilton County history, and he's not through yet. County clerk since 1974, he was the first in line on Friday morning to pick up his petition for re-election. Then he beat everyone back with the completed form. Mr. Knowles said, "I ran in 1974 on a campaign of ending the long tag lines. We put in a tag by mail system ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Should Be Problem Solvers Around The City

Re: Roy Exum’s “Stay, Signal Mountain, Stay”  Well this article is something to think about. I think the split could go either way, and Signal Mountain schools would still flourish, as they have done for the past several years. What I'm worried about is why Signal Mountain has not yet had the guts to go be problem solvers at Howard, or Tyner, or Central. Why do ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

As we welcome another Saturday of the funnies, our attention is drawn to two little boys, ages 5 and 7, who are excessively mischievous. They are always getting into trouble and their parents know if any mischief occurs in their town, the two boys are probably involved.    Understand, we have no idea who these boys are, or where any of the Saturday Funnies originate. ... (click for more)