Contracting an Alpha-gal allergy is a hunter’s worst nightmare. The allergy makes a person allergic to red meat. That means no more backstrap, deer steaks, or any other venison product. Until recently it was assumed that only Lone Star ticks transmitted it but studies suggest that chiggers might also be carriers.
According to Yale Scientific, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the University of Virginia suggest that chigger bites may also cause an alpha-gal allergy.
Russell Scott Traister, MD, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Wake Forest Baptist, discovered the first known case of chiggers causing alpha-gal. J A North Carolina man was bitten by hundreds of chiggers while hiking. Four weeks later, he reported four different allergic reactions consuming red meat. The man, however, did not report any tick bites.
“He was very insistent that he had not been bitten by ticks in quite some time, and he wears tick repellent clothing,” Traister said. “This is what sparked my curiosity because we could not find previous literature regarding chiggers causing this particular type of reaction.”
Since that discover more and more cases of chigger transmitted alpha-gal have come to light. Further studies are still needed. According to Traister, one of the biggest challenges they are currently facing is a lack of an animal model.
“Alpha-gal is also often overlooked, and we miss some cases because the symptoms are so delayed. People eat meat and wake up in the middle of the night 6 to 8 hours after that with anaphylaxis [acute allergic reaction] and don’t know what caused it,” he said.
So next time you are in chigger country, be sure to take precautions. Even though the condition is rare, contracting it can be a nightmare.