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 Make Musical Memories At Creekside

Creekside at Shallowford Independent Living invited Program Director Dawn Dunn and residents from The Lantern at Morning Pointe of Collegedale for a piano concert and sing along.  Voices of both community's residents were raised as they joined in on familiar hymns, patriotic tunes, jazz and spiritual collections, and classical numbers. (click for more)

Prescription Drug Abuse Tops Alcohol Abuse In Tennessee

Abuse of prescription opioids, ie: pain medications, is the number one drug problem for Tennesseans receiving publicly funded assistance for treatment services. Over the past decade, substance abuse admissions for prescription drugs like: hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and methadone have increased 500 percent. The situation has driven admissions to treatment facilities up, ... (click for more)

16-Year-Old Shot Near Emma Wheeler Homes

A 16-year-old was shot near Emma Wheeler Homes on Sunday night. At approximately 7:40 p.m., Chattanooga Police received a call of a person shot from a local hospital. Officers spoke to the victim, a 16-year-old black male, who was transported to a local hospital in a personal vehicle. The victim’s injury is minor and non-life threatening. Investigators spoke to the victim ... (click for more)

Helen Burns Sharp Asks Recovery Of Legal Fees In Successful Black Creek TIF Lawsuit

Helen Burns Sharp, citizen activist who sued to try to stop a $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and won, is seeking to have her legal expenses paid by the city and the developers. Ms. Sharp said in a court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka are $74,427 thus far. Chancellor Frank Brown ruled in favor of Ms. Sharp, saying the Sunshine ... (click for more)

Decimating The Chattanooga Public Library

Corinne Hill claims that the library is just undergoing a normal weeding process for eliminating books.  She has bragged that she's responsible for the elimination of over 100,000 books - with more to go. "Normal" weeding is not rampant throwing away.  Yes, books go to the Friends for their sale - where they get $2 for a $75 book and thousands wind up being recycled ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)