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.


Inaugural LIFE FORCE Call Of The Year Awards Recognize Regional EMS Providers

Erlanger Health System’s air medical program, LIFE FORCE, held a ceremony to honor local EMS heroes who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in the inaugural Call of the Year awards during national EMS Week. LIFE FORCE flight crew members and awards committee selected outstanding calls in the categories of Medical, Pediatric and Trauma.   Medical Call of the Year ... (click for more)

Cherokee Health Systems' Chief Clinical Officer To Participate Best Practices Study

Parinda Khatri, PhD, Cherokee Health Systems’ chief clinical officer, has been selected by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health to join an advisory group of health care professionals that will travel to Spain next month to conduct in-depth research on best practices in health care delivery.   Dr. Khatri will join professionals from ... (click for more)

Bryan Johnson, Timothy Gadson, Stuart Greenberg, Wayne Johnson, Kirk Kelly Are Superintendent Finalists

Bryan Johnson of Clarksville, Tn., was the top vote-getter on the opening round of balloting for Hamilton County school superintendent. The chief academic officer for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System was on the ballot of all nine school board members at a special meeting on Thursday afternoon. Others who made the cut were Timothy Gadson, a Minnesota educator; ... (click for more)

Man Shot In Home Invasion Early Wednesday Morning

A man was shot in a home invasion early Wednesday morning.   Chattanooga Police responded to a person shot on the 6000 block of Arlena Circle at 4:40 a.m. Upon arrival, police located the victim, Edward Greatheart, 41,  who was suffering from a non-life threatening gunshot wound.   Mr. Greatheart was treated on the scene and transported to a local hospital ... (click for more)

Life For Our Ancestors In 1890

May 26-27 is the 1890’s Day Jamboree in Ringgold. I encourage any reader to attend and enjoy that wonderful community. I love having grown up in Northwest Georgia and celebrating our veterans, including both of my grandfathers who served in WWII.  But I also want to describe how the 1890’s were for my ancestors, living here in a singularly turbulent time. Based on, among ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Governor Haslam, Please!

AN OPEN LETTER TO GOV. BILL HASLAM … Greetings to you, my friend. You know with one more year on the course we have sailed during your two terms as the leader of our state you will go down as one of the greatest governors we have ever had. It stands to reason you eye Lamar Alexander’s Senate seat, but whatever you do it will be hard to replicate your service to Tennessee and ... (click for more)