The last three times he has eaten red meat -- even organic, free range meat -- he has broken out in hives. Itchy, all-body, take-several-Benadryls-and-go-to-bed-til-it's-over hives.
For some people, the reaction can be even worse: they can go into anaphylactic shock.
The culprit? Researchers at the University of Virginia think it's tick spit.
More precisely, the spit of lone star ticks that contains a sugar known as alpha-gal (galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose) -- a sugar that's also in red meat. If a tick bites you, and the alpha-gal gets into your bloodstream, you may develop antibodies to it. Then, when you eat that hamburger, your immune system attacks the alpha-gal, releases lots of histamines, and you end up with hives...or worse.
Lyme disease is still much more prevalent and problematic than alpha-gal syndrome. But as with Lyme disease, the DC area is right on the edge of the highest-prevalence area.