CDC Raises Concern About Little-Known Tick-Borne Illness That Baffles Doctors

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have discovered a potentially severe and life-threatening illness that is initiated by tick bites.

According to a Fox News report, there is a potentially widespread and undiagnosed illness affecting hundreds of thousands of Americans. Known as Alpha-Gal Syndrome (AGS), it is an allergy to a carbohydrate molecule called alpha-gal, commonly found in red meat and dairy products. The transmission of this molecule occurs through the bite of the Lone Star tick.

Since the first reported cases in 2010, the incidence of AGS has increased significantly. Official records indicate over 110,000 suspected cases in the past thirteen years. However, a 2022 CDC study suggests the actual number could be four times higher, potentially affecting up to 450,000 individuals.

Symptoms of AGS can vary widely, ranging from mild hives to life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. A crucial challenge in diagnosing the syndrome lies in the delayed onset of symptoms, typically occurring four to six hours after consuming red meat.

Awareness about AGS has been emphasized by the CDC and health experts. Nevertheless, the 2022 CDC study reveals that 78 percent of healthcare providers have limited or no knowledge about AGS, making it difficult for patients to receive appropriate treatment.

A report from The New York Times further highlights that many physicians who have heard about AGS are unaware of how to effectively treat it.

“Our 110,000 suspected cases of alpha-gal syndrome represent those that found the health care provider that did properly send off for the antibody test,” said Dr. Johanna Salzer, a CDC disease ecologist and veterinarian.

As per The Times report, Doctor Maya Jerath, an allergist and immunologist from Washington University in St. Louis, strongly asserts that the condition is significantly underdiagnosed. She has treated numerous patients, totaling in the hundreds, who suffer from alpha-gal syndrome.

“This is a story that every patient of mine tells me, that ‘I had to go to five physicians before they could tell me what it was,’” said Dr. Jerath. “It’s nice to have numbers behind it, and it’s definitely a call to action.”

Alpha-Gal Syndrome currently has no cure. To manage the condition, individuals are advised to avoid consuming trigger foods and to take antihistamines when symptoms arise. For more severe reactions, seeking care from an allergist is highly recommended by experts to ensure proper control and treatment.