The Red Meat Allergy: A Canadian Perspective

This guest post is written by Shaun Dergousoff, PhD, a research scientist at AAFC Lethbridge focused on tick populations and arthropod vectors of livestock disease. The following is an updated version of an article we first published on the BCRC Blog in 2017.

Recently, a connection between the bite of the lone star tick and allergies to red meat products was established. The “red meat allergy” is often framed as an emerging and alarming public health issue. Although the allergy symptoms can be severe, the incidence is relatively low, even throughout the southeastern United States where the lone star tick is well established (meaning a presence of reproducing populations).

The red meat allergy was first identified in Australia with several hundred cases diagnosed since 1985, and was recognized in thousands of people in the southeastern United States over the last couple decades. This allergy also occurs in people from several other countries around the world. Based on reported cases, it appears that allergy to red meat in the USA is about as common as allergy to peanuts, occurring in only 0.1% of the population. Those who are affected can have very serious and even life-threatening anaphylactic reactions after eating red meat products.

The source of the red meat allergy was a mystery until 2007 when doctors realized that a large proportion of the people that were diagnosed also reported tick bites weeks or months prior to experiencing symptoms. Continue reading