Washington– About 450,000 people living in the US may have been affected with a potentially life-threatening meat allergy that has been linked to tick bites, according to two new studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS), also known as the red-meat allergy or the tick bite meat allergy, is a serious allergic condition some people experience after they consume food or products containing alpha-gal.
It is a sugar found in meat from mammals (pork, beef, rabbit, lamb, venison, etc.) and products made from mammals (e.g., gelatin, cow’s milk, milk products, some pharmaceuticals).
People may experience wide ranging symptoms, including hives or itchy rash; nausea or vomiting; heartburn or indigestion; diarrhoea; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; drop in blood pressure; swelling of the lips, throat, tongue, or eyelids; dizziness or faintness; or severe stomach pain.
The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Friday noted that a large number of people may be undiagnosed due to the non-specific and inconsistent symptoms, and low awareness.
Localities in the southern, midwestern, and mid-Atlantic regions of the US identified more people who tested positive, the agency said.
“It is estimated that as many as 450,000 people might have been affected by AGS in the US,” the report said
Growing evidence suggests that AGS is primarily associated with the bite of a lone star tick in the US, but other kinds of ticks have not been ruled out.
“Alpha-gal syndrome is an important emerging public health problem, with potentially severe health impacts that can last a lifetime for some patients,” said Dr Ann Carpenter, epidemiologist and lead author of one of the papers released today.
“It’s critical for clinicians to be aware of AGS so they can properly evaluate, diagnose, and manage their patients and also educate them on tick-bite prevention to protect patients from developing this allergic condition.”
In one study, 1,500 family/general practitioners, internists, paediatricians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants across the country were surveyed, and results showed that nearly half of respondents had not heard of AGS.
Approximately one-third reported that they were ‘not too confident’ in their ability to diagnose or manage patients with AGS, and five per cent felt ‘very confident’ in their ability.
In another study, CDC researchers examined laboratory test results from 2017 to 2022 from a laboratory that until August 2021.
More than 300,000 specimens were submitted by healthcare providers on behalf of patients with presumed clinical suspicion of AGS, and more than 30 per cent were positive. (IANS)