Tuesday, July 24, 2018 09:00 AM

WHAT THE MYSTERY OF THE TICK-BORNE MEAT ALLERGY COULD REVEAL

Another unusual aspect of meat allergy is that it can emerge after a lifetime spent eating meat without problems. In other food allergies, scientists think that childrens immune systems may never learn to tolerate the food in the first place. But in meat allergy, the tick seems to break an already established tolerance, causing the immune system to attack what it previously ignored. One way to understand how the parasite pulls this off is to consider its bite as a kind of inadvertent vaccine. A vaccine teaches an immune system to pursue a pathogen it otherwise wouldnt by exposing it to weakened versions of that pathogen an attenuated measles virus, say or bits and pieces of dead pathogen. Vaccines also often contain a substance called an adjuvant, which is designed to spur the immune system into action.

In similar fashion, when the lone-star tick feeds, alpha-gal leaks from its mouth into the wound, exposing the victims immune system to the sugar, prompting the immune system to remember and pursue alpha-gal. But exposure to alpha-gal alone probably doesnt achieve this feat. Commins, who is at the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, has identified a candidate, an ...

News source: The New York Times

See also: Nashville ENT