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36 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT

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Trumbull, CT

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Food allergies are increasing at an alarming rate.  It is not unusual  to  either know someone who has a food allergy or personally to have experienced an allergic  reaction to food .While the cause is not known, some researchers have found that a lack of exposure to common infections and toxins in the developed world may increase the risk of food allergy.  Familiar  food allergies include peanuts, eggs, milk, tree nuts and seafood. Allergy to red meat, such as beef or pork, previously considered rare, is an newly recognized problem. The first reports of red meat allergy were published in Australia in 2007 where two allergist discovered twenty five patients in their practice community who developed severe allergic reactions to beef after being biten by ticks. Prior to these reports, there had been only  isolated  reports of allergic reactions to tick bites alone, so the bites were not considered the immediate cause of the allergic reactions. Most patients who developed red meat allergy did however experience itching and swelling at the site of a previous  tick bite suggesting a sensitizing allergic response to the assault.  What tied the tick bite  to subsequent  meat allergy was an observation on the other side of the world by Dr. Platts-Mills of a much higher than expected  frequency of allergic reactions to the drug cituximab occuring in Virginia and surrounding states.  Cituximab is used to treat advanced colon cancer. Almost  20 per cent of patients receiving the drug in North Carolina and  Tennesse  had an allergic reaction wheras nationally, the rate was 3 per cent. Dr. Mills  was subsequently able to show that the cause of the high number of allergic reactions to cituximab was due to allergy-causing antibodies produced by the bite of a tic found in this region of the country. Proteins in the saliva of the tick trigger the formation of allergy triggering antibodies that can react with meat proteins. Thus a significant number of the drug-allergic  patients had also experienced allergic reactions to red meat becuase of this immune response. The allergy causing antibodies that reacted with the cituximab  were later shown to interact with a sugar coated protein in beef and pork. The key feature of this type of meat allergy is its dependence on a tick bite. Reactions can be severe, but are delayed compared to other types of food allergies. Most reactions occurred 2 to 10 hours after ingestion,commonly in the middle of the night. Allergic symptoms include swelling of the lips, rash, itching difficulty breathing, wheezing and coughing. The allergic reaction is clearly dependent on living in an area where the spcific tic resides, which is primarily the Southeastern United States. Confirming the diagnosis is difficult because tests to measure the allergy causing antibodies are not commercially available,thus a good history and suspicion are required.