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.


Erlanger Offers Classes And Events For June 1-4

Erlanger offers online childbirth education class.  The online class is an easy-to-understand interactive program that includes more than 70 videos, animated illustrations, downloadable PDF files, review quizzes and information specific to Erlanger East and Erlanger Baroness birthing services.  By choosing the online childbirth program, participants will have access to ... (click for more)

Erlanger Hosts Affordable Care Act Information Session Wednesday

Erlanger Health System community health centers will host an Affordable Care Act information session on how to understand health insurance at the Southside Community Health Center on Wednesday beginning at noon.     Many area residents still have questions regarding the ACA and how to enroll for health insurance through the marketplace or federal assistance programs. ... (click for more)

EPB Seeks 3.5% Rate Increase; First Since 2011

EPB on Friday morning asked its board of directors to consider a 3.5 percent rate increase to monthly electric power charges for customers, effective July 1. The board is set to vote on the measure in June. For residential customers who use 1,000 kWh of electric power in a month, this adjustment will reflect an increase of about $3.50 on their monthly bills. The 3.5 percent ... (click for more)

Garcia Charged With Armed Robbery Of Red Bank Dollar Store

Red Bank Police have charged 25-year-old Derek Matthew Garcia with the armed robbery of the Dollar General Store at 4707 Dayton Blvd. Police Chief Tim Christol said the robbery occurred last Friday at approximately 12:30 p.m. when Garcia entered the store armed with a knife and demanded the clerk give him all the money from the cash register. He was arrested Thursday ... (click for more)

Don't Make A Mockery Of Memorial Day - And Response

We're told Memorial Day is the day to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in order that we, as Americans and others around the world, might live free, unshackled (invisible or otherwise) and without oppression. But how is that so when so many in America continue to be denied those freedoms? Others whose family and friends made the ultimate sacrifice? Their surviving families ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Chincoteague Mourns ‘Dude’

In the span of a person’s life, there are some things that simply can’t be explained to be totally understood. And of all the spectacles I have ever personally witnessed, one of the best is that day in late July when they “pen the ponies” at Chincoteague Island, Va. I’m serious. Over 50,000 people watch every year as volunteer “Saltwater Cowboys” swim the wild ponies to the mainland ... (click for more)