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.


Morning Pointe Residents Meet Miss Muffett

Residents at The Lantern at Morning Pointe Alzheimer's Center of Excellence, Collegedale, made the acquaintance of Miss Muffett, a Shetland pony who came to fame for her roles in movies and commercials.   As part of the Meaningful Day program, the memory care community invites furry, four-legged friends to spend quality time with the residents.   The 17-year-old ... (click for more)

CHI Memorial Asks To Be Removed As Pokémon Go Location

Leaders at CHI Memorial are warning associates, guests, and the public not to use any of the health care system’s facilities to play Pokémon Go.   “Patient safety and privacy are our top priorities,” said Rhonda Poulson, senior vice president and chief nursing officer. “This game can cause unwanted distraction to those providing and receiving medical care in our hospitals ... (click for more)

Hixson Man Charged With Sending Threatening Emails To General Sessions Court Judge

A 30-year-old Hixson man has been charged with making threats to kill General Sessions Court Judge Lila Statom after police said they found evidence to tie him to recent threats against the judge. David Lee Graham, of 1730 Colorado St., is charged with retaliation against a judge. His bond was raised to $100,000. Detective Ric Whaley said he had been conducting an investigation ... (click for more)

Man Arrested For Confronting Southside Grocery Employee With Gun

Brandon Jamal Appleberry, 27, was arrested on Monday after an altercation with an employee at Southside Grocery on West 38 th Street, officers said. Marty Witt, 44, told police that the suspect confronted him with a gun in his hand. Officers said security video from the store clearly showed Appleberry arguing with several people outside while holding a gun. The defendant ... (click for more)

Lock Her Up? - And Response

It's concerning that the Republican Party elite attending the recent convention would indict, convict and jail a political opponent, when the FBI found no criminal intent to compromise national security and no other law violations were found. This "lock her up" mob mentality is third world, over-the-edge behavior that has no place in a country based on the rule-of-law, where ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Double Travesties

Back when we were kids the old guys taught us how to throw a one-two punch. It’s pretty impressive if you do it right, which is to jab your left fist into the thug’s face and then, as though it was a symphony, complete the combination as you deliver a powerful right cross to the same nose. If the thug has a gun, it doesn’t work as well. But, boy, did our community ever get clobbered ... (click for more)