Avoid Ticks – Here’s Another Reason

We know ticks carry disease.  If you live in the Southeastern United States, you know to avoid ticks.  You are particularly aware of the risks of Lyme disease as well as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  (As an aside, why do they call it “Rocky Mountain” when you are more apt to find it in the Appalachian or other eastern mountains and not the Rockies? But I digress).

Well, researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia (Susan Wolver, MD, Diane Sun, MD, and others) have discovered another reason to avoid ticks. Their research indicates that the bite of a Lone Star tick (named for the spot on its middle, not its location in the Lone Star state) can cause subsequent anaphylaxis when eating red meat.

What is even more interesting is that the IgE antibodies are as a result of the carbohydrate alpha-gal.  This is the first time a carbohydrate as been identified as an allergy trigger.  All other triggers are proteins.  Further complicating matters, these people have a negative skin prick test to meat. This makes making a diagnosis even more difficult.  As if diagnosis weren’t tricky enough, the symptoms occur between three to six hours after exposure, much longer than usual for food allergy.  All because you forgot to avoid ticks!

Read all about it here in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

If you are outside in wooded areas or fields, be sure to check carefully when you come inside for ticks.  Ticks like to hide in folds of skin.  They should be removed so that the entire tick is removed, and the head is not left behind.  But of course you know this, you just didn’t know the link between tick bites and allergy to red meat. That is until now.  Yet another reason to avoid ticks.

Until next time!

Atopic Dermatitis, Peanuts, and Genetics

Allergists and immunologists for years have noted the association of skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and eczema and food allergies, especially allergies to peanuts.  Heredity has also been a suspect in both conditions.  But now there is more than anecdotal evidence.

A large group of researchers working in the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, and Ireland published their findings last year in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  They were attempting to identify if the genetic coding for filaggrin is a candidate gene in the etiology of peanut allergy.  Filaggrin is a protein in epithelial cells. You can read the entire article here.  The researchers concluded that FLG null mutations represent a highly significant genetic risk factor for atopic dermatitis and also are the single most significant genetic risk for peanut allergy that has been identified to date.

The reason I am writing about this today is because I just read a post two days ago by a respected allergist that indicated that some food allergies may disappear as a child matures.  He specifically mentioned that this did not apply to peanut allergy. Could it be that the epithelial cells that line the digestive tract are the real culprit?

I’m not a doctor and I don’t have the answers. I do know that if you have peanut allergy or atopic dermatitis researchers are hard at work decoding the causes to find the cure.

Just something to think about….until next time!