A mysterious allergy, the unc researcher who helped figure it out, and the cloned brown itchy patches on skin pigs that could be the answer – indy week

brown itchy patches on skin

In February 2017, North Carolina’s longtime agriculture commissioner had just returned from a trade mission to Brazil, where he’d feasted on steak with local officials and businessmen. He awoke with a high fever and a rash, severe enough that he went to see his doctor Monday morning, who, in turn, sent him to an infectious disease specialist.

As of this spring, there were more than five thousand confirmed alpha-gal allergy cases in the U.S., but that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg. The allergy isn’t well-known, even in the medical community. It’s only been discovered in the last twenty years, linked to ticks in the last dozen years, and the average time between when most patients first experience symptoms and when they are diagnosed is more than seven years. As an article in the journal Oxford Medical Case Reports noted last year, “The prevalence of this allergy is dramatically increasing.”

It’s not just that researchers are becoming more aware of the allergy, either. There’s evidence it’s spreading, too. Tick-carrying deer populations are exploding around developed areas due to a decrease in hunting and the disappearance of natural predators. And, thanks to climate change, the Lone Star and other alpha-gal-spreading ticks—which have traditionally preferred warmer climates like the southeastern U.S.—are migrating further north than ever before.

At a forum organized in Raleigh in August, the Food and Drug Administration announced that Revivicor’s initiative to genetically modify pigs that are free of the alpha-gal allergen had been accepted into its Veterinary Innovation Program, meaning the altered-and-cloned pigs would be ushered through the regulatory process on their way to the slaughterhouse and grocery store shelves.

Not long after Platt-Mills published his findings, Dr. Scott Commins, now a professor at the UNC School of Medicine, began his residency and then a fellowship at UVA. With Platt-Mills, he began seeing patients at the UVA allergy clinic who had suddenly developed a reaction to red meat after safely eating it their whole lives. Oddly, their reactions were delayed, usually by several hours, and were most severe after they ingested fatty meat. (It takes the body about three hours to begin digesting animal fat.) This was unlike other food allergies, which occur instantaneously.

brown itchy patches on skin

So she found a new doctor who was willing to listen to her story and her recollection of being bitten by a Lone Star tick. He’d just come back from a conference where Platt-Mills had spoken, and he agreed to test her. The test confirmed her self-diagnosis; her symptoms appear about two hours after she ingests pork—or within minutes after she’s exposed to red meat particles in the air.

Medical products aren’t immune, either. Gelatin capsules and gummy vitamins have components made from animal hooves. Vitamin D3 is derived from sheep. Heparin, pancreatic enzymes, and thyroid medications are made from pigs. Premarin, a hormone used by menopausal women, is produced from horses. These are but a few of the mammalian-based medications commonly found in medicine cabinets.

In 1989, AquaBounty first combined the Atlantic and Chinook salmon with the eel-like ocean pout to create Aquadvantage, a fish that grows faster and can be brought to market quicker than typical salmon. The product went on sale in Canada in 2016, but its sale in the U.S. was held up in Congress as lawmakers battled over labeling. Recently cleared, AquaBounty could be in stores next year, though it remains controversial.

I was diagnosed with Alpha-gal with 5/6 beef and pork. I started doing some research and found a couple of desensitation studies. So I tried eating small amounts of beef and pork every day. My allergy doctor and his staff had me get epi-pens, told me I could die and if I ate meat I would never get over it, but if I avoided meats I might get over it in 3-5 years. I let them know of the research I found and my consuming meat, despite their protests. They retested me after about 4 months and I was down to a 3 on a scale of 6 on beef and pork. I continued to consume meat in slightly increasing amounts. After 6-7 months with no issues I was back. I sent the nurse a photo of my porterhouse steak at Longhorn, with the message that I, like John Wick in the movies, WAS BACK! My reactions were late at night swelling and a red rash. Dr. Commings research and articles were very informative as to cause and reason for the delayed reaction. During my self run desensitation protocol if I had experienced any reactions I was ready with benedryl and to avoid meats for a day, then start back with a reduced amount. I eat meat every day and probably more beefsteak than I should, but I have been symptom free for over a year.

brown itchy patches on skin

brown itchy patches on skin

brown itchy patches on skin

brown itchy patches on skin

brown itchy patches on skin


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