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UNC Allergist Investigates Mysterious Meat Allergy

Steak on a grill.
Mo Riza
Flickr - Creative Commons
Meat allergies are caused by a reaction to to alpha-gal, a carbohydrate found in beef, pork and lamb.

When patients began showing up at hospitals with allergic reactions they believed were caused by meat, doctors were quick to dismiss their theories. But patients living in the South who were exposed to a cancer drug containing alpha-gal, a carbohydrate found in beef, pork and lamb, had similar responses. 

Dr. Scott Commins and his colleagues set out to investigate why people were developing allergic responses to alpha-gal, and why geography seemed to be playing a role. The team’s public health sleuthing allowed it to identify a connection between the sudden meat allergy and certain tick bites.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Scott Commins, physician in the University of North Carolina’s Allergy and Immunology Clinic, about how he continues to piece together the puzzle of meat allergies.

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Jennifer Brookland is the American Homefront Project Veterans Reporting Fellow. She covers stories about the military and veterans as well as issues affecting the people and places of North Carolina.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.