© Dale Crosby Close for Mosaic

The Briefing: Tickborne meat allergy

A lot of research goes into our stories. Here are some of the resources we used to put together our story on tickborne meat allergies. 

Meat allergy is real and it’s turning lives upside down. It’s spread by tick bites that leave people sensitive to a protein called alpha-gal, which is found in mammalian meat. The allergy dictates what people can eat and wear, how they relax, and even which medicines are safe. In this feature for Mosaic, Maryn McKenna hears how meat allergies could be spreading more quickly than we might think.

If you want to know more, this reading list gets deeper into some of the themes from Maryn’s story.

Alpha-gal allergy

This 2015 paper explains how tick bites were found to be the only significant cause of previously unexplained meat allergies.

Climate change is playing a role in the northward expansion of alpha-gal allergy, as explored in this 2014 article.

Dr Scott Commins was instrumental in identifying tick bites as the cause of alpha-gal allergy. In this video interview, and also in this podcast, Commins explains how alpha-gal allergy differs from other food allergies.

How to prevent tick bites, and what to do if you have one

This advice, offered by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, explains the basics of avoiding tick bites.

This overview of alpha-gal syndrome shows how to recognise symptoms and advises on when to consult a doctor.

For more information about the tick that causes alpha-gal allergy in the USA, the lone star tick – including how to recognise one, signs of infestations and how to prevent them – head to this help page.

Stories

This 2018 paper follows a specific patient with alpha-gal allergy, from diagnosis through to management of the condition.

This interview tells the story of Tracy, a personal trainer who developed alpha-gal syndrome aged 43.

Doug discovered he had alpha-gal syndrome in 2015, and started this blog to support others with the same diagnosis.

More from Mosaic

In ‘Why do we have allergies?’, Carl Zimmer talks to a master immunologist with a controversial stance.

In Finland, people whose sickness is linked to certain buildings have struggled for doctors to recognise their condition as legitimate. Shayla Love asks, is it the buildings or the people who need treatment?

‘Will illegal bushmeat bring the next global outbreak?’ Akshat Rathi finds out.