CDC: Tick-Borne Red Meat Allergy Cases On The Rise

An increasing number of Americans are developing allergies to red meat, and medical experts say the cause is an illness spread by tick bites.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alpha-gal syndrome cases have increased in recent years with more than 110,000 cases documented between 2010 and 2022. The agency advises that the true number is likely much higher since the condition is “not nationally notifiable to CDC, so it is not known how many cases of AGS exist in the United States.”

Some researchers believe the true number of cases could be around 450,000. Based on current trends, experts say red meat could soon become one of America’s 10 most common food allergies.

“Additional data and research are needed to understand how many people are affected by this condition,” the CDC added.

The onset of symptoms generally occurs a few hours after someone with the condition eats red meat and certain other mammal-based products. Experts say lone star ticks appear to be the primary carrier of AGS but other varieties have also been shown to spread it to humans.

Bernadine Heller-Greenman suffers from the condition and was first alerted to a possible problem when she noticed an unusual rash. She said one of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with the issue was the trouble diagnosing it, particularly since she did not remember being bitten by a tick.

“The first sign was a rash that I had that I could never figure out what it was from,” Heller-Greenman added. “A rash on my torso, my thighs, sometimes my thighs, sometimes my arms, but definitely my torso.”

In addition to often itchy rashes, common symptoms of AGS include nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, coughing, lower blood pressure, dizziness, stomach pains, and swollen lips, tongue, eyelids, or throat.

Considering the wide range of potential symptoms, proper diagnosis can be difficult, but officials hope that by highlighting the issue more healthcare providers will have the information needed to identify the signs and provide the most appropriate treatments.

Researchers say that some people have been able to recover from the condition and once again start consuming red meat, but it appears to be a lifelong malady for many others.