An Austrian man has been left unable to eat red meat, dairy products and items containing gelatine like gummy bears after being bitten by a tick.
The tick (Ixodes ricinus) bite apparently resulted in the man developing an allergy which means he needs to take antihistamine drugs every time he eats anything other than vegetables, although it is believed he can still eat fish and poultry.
The case was reported by a team of scientists working at the Medical University in Innsbruck, as well as the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna and the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES).
The research was published in the latest edition of the Austrian Medical Journal which said the case involved a 51-year-old Austrian man who had been bitten by a tick in the spring of 2017. In the 48 hours after the bite, the area became red and inflamed.
AGES spokesman Franz Allerberger said: “This severe redness persisted for several weeks. This is very unusual, normally there is no strong local inflammation.”
He added that the allergy was noticed by the patient after eating a steak “in the evening, medium-rare”.
He said: “A hives rash occurred in the middle of the night and the patient suffered from respiratory distress – a classic anaphylactic (severe allergic) reaction “.
The magazine reported then that in the spring of last year, he was bitten again by a tick which again caused the red and inflamed area, but this time around, the allergic reaction that followed was more frequent.
The magazine reported: “In the following months, the patient experienced five episodes of severe allergic reactions, each during the night after having eaten beef for dinner. The symptoms included a pruritic urticarial rash involving the entire body along with swollen hands, diarrhoea, vomiting and in some episodes even shortness of breath.”
The report said that although it is known that protein components can trigger allergies, more recently they have found that sugar components such as Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, known as alpha-gal for short, can also result in allergies which in some cases like that of the Austrian man can be severe.
Ticks have alpha-gel in their digestive tracts and can excrete it into victims who they bite causing the allergy to red meat, including beef, pork and lamb.
When an allergy test was carried out it resulted in a highly positive result and now medics have published the report, to warn other doctors and experts working in the field of allergies, that severe allergic (anaphylactic ) reactions can happen as a result of a tick bite.
The test confirmed there was a strong increase in antibody levels (IgE and IgG antibodies that react against the alpha-gal from beef and pork).
The end result is that the man needs to avoid red meat, as well as dairy products and even gelatine which means sweets like gummy bears and jelly babies are also no longer an option without posing severe health risks.
AGES says that they estimate around 50 to 100 people a year are being infected with the condition that leaves them allergic to meat.
They added that it was unknown how many times the tick needed to bite the person for the allergy to take hold, and that Ixodes ricinus bites are considered the primary cause of IgE antibody responses specific for alpha-gal in Europe.
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