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Investigators Explore Evolving Causes of Anaphylaxis

A new study conducted at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center sought to determine the causes of anaphylaxis at that facility and how etiologies and episodes have evolved.

In their most recent work, researchers identified 218 cases that met the criteria for anaphylaxis. They determined a definitive etiology in 85 of these cases. Among these 85 cases, researchers found alpha-gal allergy, a reaction to a carbohydrate found in red meat, was the primary etiology in 28.

Notably, researchers found 35% of cases in which there was no identified cause for anaphylaxis, a decrease from 59% when researchers conducted a similar exercise more than a decade ago. The authors attributed this development to the fact that alpha-gal allergy was first identified after they conducted their last exercise in 2006. Further, they noted Tennessee is home to a large population of Lone Star ticks, which also carry alpha-gal and whose bites can cause people to develop an allergy to red meat.

The authors concluded that because Lone Star ticks thrive across the southeast, it would make sense to discover a high frequency of anaphylaxis cases due to an alpha-gal allergy. They also noted that there have been reports of similar alpha-gal allergies and Lone Star ticks in other states outside that region; thus, EDs may want to take precautionary measures and learn more about the condition.