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Alpha-Gal Syndrome: Everything You Need To Know About This Tick-Related Meat Allergy

Alpha-gal, more formally known as galactose-a-1 and 3-galactose, is a type of sugar molecule. It is found in most mammals but not fish, reptiles, birds, or people. Humans may consume alpha-gal if they are meat eaters, as the molecule is found in pork, beef, rabbit, lamb, and venison. It is also found in animal products such as milk products and gelatin.

However, the molecule seldom makes it into the human bloodstream through food consumption. Because of this, the molecule typically causes no harm to those that consume it. If a person is bitten by a tick, though, they can develop an allergy to alpha-gal, leading to something called alpha-gal syndrome. While the allergy isn’t always severe, it can lead to serious allergic reactions in some. Read on to learn all you need to know about this potential tick-related meat allergy.

What causes alpha-gal syndrome?

Ticks are rampant in the United States and carry many tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease. When a person gets fed on by a tick, the tick can transmit the alpha-gal sugar molecule into their bloodstream. While the syndrome isn’t strictly considered a tick-borne disease like Lyme disease, it is caused by a bite.

Not everyone who comes into contact with the molecule will wind up having problems, but in some, the immune system reacts to alpha-gal and begins an allergic reaction. Once the molecule is in the body, the next time a person eats meat, they may experience symptoms.

The culprit most responsible for this is the Lone Star tick. This type of tick is found mainly in the southeastern states but can also be found in both the eastern and south-central areas of the country. As Lone Star ticks travel throughout the country on deer and other animals, they begin to spread, and thus, so does the risk of contracting alpha-gal syndrome.

Image by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash: Is alpha-gal related to Lyme disease?

What are the signs and symptoms of alpha-gal syndrome?

Allergic reactions that occur because of alpha-gal syndrome can range from mild to severe. It is difficult to determine who will develop the syndrome and how bad their symptoms will be if they do. Symptoms are almost the same as with other food allergies; however, they tend to take longer to develop, and the onset of symptoms can range anywhere from two to six hours after eating a meat product following the tick bite. 

Signs and symptoms can include:

  • Hives, itchy skin, and/or scaly skin
  • Swelling of the tongue, throat, lips, face, or other areas of the body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headaches
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction that causes the throat to close and cuts off a person’s ability to breathe

Sometimes a person may not have an allergic reaction to meat every time they eat it. This makes alpha-gal syndrome even more challenging to predict.

How is alpha-gal syndrome diagnosed?

Since alpha-gal syndrome presents like a typical food allergy, it can be hard to diagnose without proper medical history. The first step in diagnosing the syndrome is collecting personal background. Doctors do this because it’s hard to determine alpha-gal syndrome without evidence of a tick bite.

There are also tests medical professionals can use to diagnose the condition if they suspect it, such as a blood test. A blood test for alpha-gal syndrome looks for antibodies in the bloodstream made in response to the alpha-gal molecule. A skin test may also be done to check for a meat allergy. This test is a little harder and takes more time because different meats will have to be tested.  

How long does alpha-gal syndrome last? 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for alpha-gal syndrome, and the condition is likely permanent once it develops. In some cases, people may recover from the syndrome after years have passed, but this doesn’t happen to everyone, and it’s hard to predict who will recover and who won’t.

Image by Sam Moghadam Khamseh on Unsplash: How long after a tick bite do you get alpha-gal? This depends on the individual.

What are the treatment options for alpha-gal syndrome?

Because alpha-gal syndrome is incurable, treatment options for the condition are limited. Most people with the disease are simply told to avoid the meat that causes the allergy so they do not have to deal with symptoms. This is especially true for people who have severe or life-threatening allergic reactions.

Avoiding foods with meat products can be difficult because certain foods contain the alpha-gal molecule without it being obvious. For example, gelatin contains alpha-gal, so any products made with gelatin must be avoided to ensure that a person doesn’t experience symptoms. It is essential to read all food labels and call ahead when eating out to ensure that there are options without meat or meat products.

In cases of more severe allergies, a person may be required to carry around an EpiPen in case they come into contact with a product containing alpha-gal. The device ensures that if anaphylaxis occurs, they can attend to severe symptoms while waiting for help to arrive. 

Coping with alpha-gal syndrome isn’t easy, especially if people have enjoyed meat products their whole lives. The best way to avoid alpha-gal syndrome is to protect yourself from tick bites, but if you do develop an allergy, the best thing to do is avoid the foods that set off symptoms and hope that the allergy settles or goes away within two years.

Featured image by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

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Anaplasmosis: Tests, Diagnosis & Treatments

Tick-borne diseases are ramping up in the United States. More and more people are falling ill with these infections for various reasons. One reason is due to the prevalence of higher tick populations as a result of climate change, making the conditions for their survival that much easier. 

While Lyme disease is often the most-talked about tick-borne disease, others can be just as harmful to your health. One of those is anaplasmosis. But what is anaplasmosis, and what is the best treatment? 

What Is Anaplasmosis? 

Anaplasmosis is a tick-borne illness, as previously mentioned, that is transferred to humans through the bites of infected ticks. The ticks most likely to spread anaplasmosis are the black-legged tick and the western black-legged tick. Black-legged ticks are common in areas where ticks are primarily found, such as the Northeastern area of the country and the upper Midwestern states. They thrive in humid and warm conditions that have low-lying vegetation. 

The illness anaplasmosis is caused by a bacteria known as Anaplasma phagocytophilum. These bacteria are gram-negative and can cause disease in animals such as sheep and cattle as well as humans. When it occurs in animals, it is called tick-borne fever or pasture fever. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Anaplasmosis? 

After the initial tick bite, signs and symptoms of anaplasmosis will take anywhere from one to two weeks to appear. Since the tick bite is often painless and people are unaware they’ve been bitten, it can be challenging to determine if the symptoms are caused by a tick-borne illness or something else. 

Other than being unaware of a bite, the reason is that the early illness signs are similar to a moderate or mild cold or flu infection. The first one to five days of the disease will present with symptoms, such as: 

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting and nausea 
  • Fatigue
  • Malaise 

If a person isn’t aware they have anaplasmosis and their doctor mistakes their symptoms for another type of infection, it will progress to a stage known as late illness. 

The symptoms of late illness can also present as a complication in people with preexisting health conditions. The signs of severe illness caused by an anaplasmosis infection include:

  • Respiratory failure
  • Bleeding problems
  • Organ failure
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death 

Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk for a severe anaplasmosis infection. People that fall into this category include: 

  • Cancer patients
  • People with HIV infections
  • People taking immunosuppressant medications
Image by Winel Sutanto on Unsplash: Is anaplasmosis curable? 

What Are The Tests For Anaplasmosis?

Diagnosing anaplasmosis can be challenging because the early infection has symptoms resembling other conditions. To diagnose anaplasmosis, doctors must perform a combinational approach that includes a history of tick exposure, a collection of current symptoms and lab testing. 

Five possible tests can be used to help doctors reach a definitive diagnosis of anaplasmosis. The tests are: 

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
  • Serology (indirect immunofluorescence antibody IFA assay)
  • Microscopic examination of a peripheral blood smear
  • Culture or bacterial isolation 
  • Immunohistochemical (IHC) assay 

Doctors tend to lean more toward PCR and microscopy tests in people with acute disease. Serology is often used in those with infections that have lasted a long time or are more severe. Treatment starts during the testing phase because diagnosing the disease can be challenging. The longer a person has it, the more at risk they are for a more severe infection. 

What Is The Differential Diagnosis Of Anaplasmosis? 

There are several differential diagnoses for anaplasmosis because of the symptoms and how it is caused. Some possible differential diagnoses include: 

  • Human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis (HME) 
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever 
  • Relapsing fever
  • Tularemia 
  • Lyme disease
  • Colorado tick fever
  • Babesiosis  

These conditions can cause issues with the diagnosis of anaplasmosis or be confused with anaplasmosis because of similar symptoms. 

Image by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash: What is the best treatment for anaplasmosis?

Is Anaplasmosis The Same As Lyme Disease? 

While anaplasmosis and Lyme disease are caused by a bacterial infection contracted from a tick bite, they are not the same. Different bacteria are to blame for the conditions. Even though some of the symptoms are similar, they do not come with the same long-term complications or effects. 

What Is The First Line Of Treatment For Anaplasmosis? 

Antibiotics are the first choice treatment for anaplasmosis because it is a bacterial infection. One specific antibiotic, doxycycline, is used to treat the condition in adults and children of all ages. This antibiotic is the most effective at preventing severe health complications and has been proven safe in most people. People typically feel better within 24 to 48 hours when taking doxycycline for anaplasmosis.

How Long Is Recovery From Anaplasmosis? 

The time it takes to recover from anaplasmosis varies depending on certain factors, such as how quickly a person sought treatment and how severe their illness is. People can start to feel better within two days. 

People who do not get antibiotics for their infection or take ineffective medication could deal with the illness for as long as 60 days. That is why early treatment is so necessary when a person has anaplasmosis. 

Since anaplasmosis is another tick-borne illness, the best thing you can do to avoid it is avoid getting bitten by ticks. You can do this by wearing bug spray and light-colored and loose-fitting clothing while out in wooded areas, and by checking thoroughly for ticks when you arrive home. 

Featured image by Erik Karits on Unsplash: How do you get anaplasmosis?

News

16 Worst States For Lyme Disease In The US

Lyme disease has become a severe problem in the United States because of the rampant tick population. The bacterial infection infects half a million people each year in the country. With that many people contracting Lyme disease, it’s hard to feel safe while out in wooded areas where the ticks are the most likely to be. 

That being said, ticks are not prevalent in every state. Some areas in the US carry a much higher risk than others when coming into contact with infected ticks and contracting the difficult-to-treat Lyme disease infection. But what states are the worst for Lyme disease, and what can you do if you live in these areas?  

What States Are Vulnerable For Lyme Disease? 

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne illness in the country. More and more people each year are getting diagnosed with the bacterial infection. That is especially true in states more vulnerable to larger infected tick populations. 

While more than half the country is home to these ticks, certain areas have seen an uptick in Lyme disease cases. That is likely because of the climate and environmental factors that come into play regarding a tick’s life cycle and where they best survive. 

Ticks can thrive in conditions above 4 degrees Celsius. Typically, every state in the country can hover at that temperature at any point in the year. However, there is more to it than temperature. Ticks need high humidity levels since they cannot drink water. They rely on humid conditions for their bodies to stay effectively hydrated – a humidity of 85% or higher is ideal. If the humidity dips below 80%, the tick’s life will be cut short due to dehydration. 

Ticks also need many hosts to feed off of to stay alive. While there is wildlife across the country, some states provide the best possible hosts for them to latch on to. Low-lying vegetation is also an essential aspect of survival for ticks because it allows for a shield from the sun and shelter. Hosts such as deer, mice and sheep also frequent these areas, making it much easier for a tick to survive. 

The states that are most vulnerable to ticks are those that meet the above criteria. Northeastern states such as New Jersey and New York make for prime conditions. 

Image by Ryan Stone on Unsplash: Where is Lyme disease the worst in the US? 

What Seasons Are The Worst For Lyme Disease? 

Lyme disease tends to spike in the warmer months. From late March to late October can be prime time for ticks because the weather tends to be more humid and warmer, and most hosts are out and about in the vegetative areas. The time between these months is typically called tick season since that is when most ticks are feeding. 

Depending on the weather and recent changes caused by climate change, tick season can last longer if the cold of winter is warded off for longer or ends sooner than expected. 

What State Has The Highest Incidence Of Lyme Disease? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state with the most Lyme disease cases in 2019 was Pennsylvania, with 6,763 confirmed cases. Another 2,235 probable cases were added to the data as well. The incidence rate per 100,000 people in the state was roughly 52.8. The states that followed Pennsylvania with the highest Lyme disease rates were New York with 2,847, New Jersey with 2,400 and Maine with 1,629. 

While these four states had the most cases in the country, there are high incidence rates in 10 others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Lyme Disease Maps. Most of the states with the highest Lyme disease rates fell into the Northeast Region, with 12 states. 

The other 2 with the highest incidence rates, Wisconsin and Minnesota, belong to the upper Midwest region of the country. The Northeast and upper Midwest areas have a climate that gives ticks enough humidity, hosts and vegetation to thrive. 

What Are The 16 Worst States For Lyme Disease In The United States? 

While the following 16 states account for those with the highest incidence rates in the country, the number of confirmed and probable cases varies significantly by state. The highest is in Pennsylvania, while the lowest belongs to Massachusetts. 

  1. Connecticut 
  2. Delaware 
  3. District of Columbia
  4. Maine
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Maryland
  7. Minnesota
  8. New Hampshire
  9. New Jersey 
  10. New York 
  11. Pennsylvania
  12. Rhode Island
  13. Vermont
  14. Virginia
  15. West Virginia
  16. Wisconsin
Image by Erik Karits on Unsplash: Where in the US is Lyme disease most common?  

How Can I Protect Myself If I Live In These States? 

Living in a tick-filled state doesn’t mean you have to avoid the outdoors like the plague. It simply means that, when enjoying the great outdoors, you must be more thoughtful about how you do it and ensure you’re aware of the Lyme disease risk. 

Ticks latch onto bare skin and continue to feed for as long as possible. To avoid this when hiking or spending time outside, wearing loose-fitting and light-colored clothing can help you protect yourself from getting bit. 

You can also use bug spray that contains DEET which may help ward off ticks and make you less attractive as a host. Following an outdoor excursion, you will also want to thoroughly check yourself, your family and any pets you have for ticks. It typically takes a tick 24 to 48 hours to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. That means that the faster you detect and remove the tick, the better your chances of avoiding the infection. 

To remove the tick, you can use tweezers and gently squeeze the tick. Once you have a good grip, you will slowly and gently pull the tick out, being careful to ensure the entire tick stays intact while you take it out. Once removed, put the tick in a bag and have it sent for testing. That will help you identify whether or not the tick that bit you has the infection, and also allow officials to track diseased ticks in the area. 

Lyme disease is challenging to cope with, so it’s best to protect yourself before contracting it. 

Featured image by Erik Karits on Unsplash

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September 2022 ILADS Conference: Everything You Need To Know

Lyme disease – a tick-borne illness caused by bacteria – has become an epidemic and is one of the fastest-growing and most prevalent infectious diseases affecting the United States population. While treatments are available, the nature of the disease and how the body responds to it have turned it into something much more severe. That is because some people can feel its debilitating effects even after being treated with antibiotics. 

The severity of the infection is also concerning. It is one of the most challenging diseases to diagnose and treat effectively. Because of its serious nature and rising cases, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society aims to educate medical professionals about what they can do to prevent the spread of the disease and the adverse effects of infection. They do this by hosting an annual ILADS Conference. This year will mark its 23rd year. Here is everything you need to know about this year’s ILADS Conference. 

When Is ILADS Conference 2022? 

In 2022, the ILADS conference will be hosted in late September between Thursday, September 22 and Sunday, September 25. The conference will provide a base for the ILADS community to meet and mingle after a long COVID break that had caused stalls. During the weekend, presentations and educational panels will be held to provide healthcare professionals with the tools to diagnose Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses earlier and more accurately. 

The September conference also looks into the possible treatments available for tick-borne diseases. That helps medical professionals with specific designations make the most of what is available to them and their patients. Medical professionals with the following designations are the target audience: 

  • MDs 
  • DOs
  • NDs
  • PAs
  • NPs
  • RNs
  • LCSWs
  • DCs
  • PhDs
  • Psychologists 
  • Other professionals who work with Lyme and related disease patients 

These professionals are invited to the Lyme conference to be better informed and equipped to handle patients with tricky and challenging diseases. 

Image by Product School on Unsplash: Who is speaking at 2022’s ILADS Conference?

Where Is ILADS Conference 2022? 

The ILADS Annual Conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, Florida – the same venue as last year. The reason for the repeated venue is its central location to the airport and other attractions in Orlando. Because of its accessibility, the hope is that more people will attend the conference and possibly bring their families to make it a vacation. 

Who Is speaking At 2022’s ILADS Conference 

This year’s ILADS conference has many presenters and guest speakers that are professionals in the Lyme disease and other tick-borne disease sectors. Speakers include: 

  • Holly Ahern, MS, MT(ASCP)
  • Robert C. Bransfield, MD
  • Cheryl Burdette, ND
  • Noam Cohen, MD, PhD
  • Eboni Cornish, MD 
  • Magdalena A. Cubala-Kurcharska, MD, PhD
  • Tania T. Dempsey, MD
  • Gill Diamond, PhD
  • Marna E. Ericson, PhD
  • Leona Gilbert, PhD
  • Rosalie Greenburg, MD
  • Sabine Hazan, MD
  • Myriah W. Hinchey, ND
  • Amiram Katz, MD
  • Gary Kaplan, DO
  • Casey Kelley, MD
  • Danial A. Kinderlehrer, MD
  • Henry H. Lindner, MD
  • Alessandra Luchini, PhD
  • Shawn Manske, ND
  • Hope McIntyre, MD
  • Scott McMahon, MD
  • Jacquelyn Meinhardt, DNP, FNP
  • Omar Morales, MD
  • B. Robert Mozayeni, MD
  • DeAnna Nara, PhD, MSc, LDN, NU, CNS
  • James R. Neuenschwander, MD
  • Amy Offutt, MD
  • William V. Padula, OD, SFNAP, FAAO, FNORA
  • Bruce K. Patterson, MD
  • Chad J. Prusmack, MD, FAANS
  • Jayakumar Rajadas, PhD
  • Leo J. Shea, III. PhD
  • Craig Shimasaki, PhD, MBA
  • Samual M. Shor, MD, FACP
  • Kayla M. Socarras, MS
  • Theoharis C. Theoharides, MD 

This group of medical professionals will be discussing neurological injuries, fundamentals, diagnosis and more. 

Image by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash: Who can attend the ILADS Annual Scientific Conference (Sep 2022), Orlando USA? 

What Are Some ILADS Events? 

Each day of the conference will host various events geared toward medical professionals looking to increase their knowledge, know-how and understanding of vector-borne illnesses. While the events are not obligatory, they are not to be missed by those who genuinely want to change how patients fight Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. 

The Vector-Borne Illness Fundamentals course event runs Thursday from 8 am to 5 pm and will educate medical professionals new to these types of infections, or those who wish to brush up on what they already know. Education surrounding the basics is a vital piece of the puzzle regarding understanding these illnesses and how they can often slip under the radar. 

Other noteworthy events include: 

  • Maternal Fetal Transmission – Friday from 3-3:30 pm 
  • Year in Review of Tick-Borne Diseases: Emerging Trends in Borrelia, Babesia, and Arbovirus – Friday from 4:50-5:15 pm
  • Neuroquant® and Biomarker Data in Brain Injury and Biotoxin Exposure – Saturday from 3:30-4:00 pm 
  • Botanical Medicine and Vector-Borne Disease: From Roots to Reason – Sunday from 9:15-9:55 am

These are just a few of the many events medical professionals can attend at the ILADS Annual Scientific Conference. You can see the full schedule on the ILADS website for more information. 

Featured image by Wan San Yip on Unsplash

gram positive bacteria
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Is Lyme Bacteria Gram Positive Or Negative?

There are over 30,000 formally named species of bacteria that have been discovered to date. Much like animals, these bacteria fall under the same umbrella category, but are not all the same – there are various types and categories. Each kind of bacteria is classified into a different grouping based on their shape.

The five shapes of bacteria are cocci, bacilli, spirilla, vibrios, and spirochaetes. Cocci and bacilli bacteria are shaped like a sphere and rod respectively. Spirilla and vibrios bacteria are shaped like a spiral and comma respectively, and finally, spirochaetes are shaped liked corkscrews. The shape of each bacteria gives them both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to survival.

Lyme disease is caused by a type of spirochaetes bacteria. But what is a spirochaete, exactly, and is Lyme bacteria gram positive or negative? Let’s find out.

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