Shingles And MMR Vaccines May Trigger Anaphylaxis In Meat-Allergic People, Researchers Call For Awareness

Dawn Papple

Red meat allergies have been causally linked to bites from lone star ticks, but a correspondence published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology now also claims that both the vaccine made to protect people from experiencing painful cases of shingles and the vaccine designed to protect people from measles, mumps, and rubella may be associated with severe reactions involving people with meat-related allergies. This is very important information because it is speculated that giving these vaccines to people with this new allergy can trigger anaphylaxis that can lead to death.

Researchers had already pinpointed galactose-α-1,3-galactose (also known as alpha-gal) sensitivity as a cause of meat allergies. This increasingly-more-common sensitivity has been blamed on the lone star tick, according to the team of researchers from multiple allergy and immunology centers in the United States and Australia.

The team stated that they examined data that ended up linking the Zoster and the MMR vaccines to meat allergy concerns because gelatin and other mammal-derived ingredients are commonly found in several vaccines. They wondered if these increasingly frequent meat allergies might also cause problems from receiving the vaccines that contain these ingredients.

The team of researchers described an incident that happened with an existing allergy patient. The patient had a documented history of red meat allergy for years and had been exposed to lone star ticks. Things took a turn for the worse when she was given the shingles vaccine from her local pharmacy. She began experiencing symptoms a few minutes later. The symptoms started with a sensation of mental clouding and within five minutes, she experienced throat-tightness. She self-administered 50 mg of diphenhydramine. A half hour after getting the vaccine, she got emergency medical care. Historically, her anaphylactic events happened hours after eating foods she was allergic to. Blood tests showed she had allergies to beef, pork, and cow's milk before the shingles vaccination.

Armed with this patient's case, the team then examined publicly available data from VAERS to check for others who may have had similar experiences. They noted that only 36 percent of those people who experienced anaphylaxis in association with the shingles vaccine had a known beef, pork, gelatin or alpha-gal allergy before they were vaccinated.

The research team went so far as to declare that there is a need to determine how often people who experience anaphylaxis to the shingles vaccine and MMR vaccine actually had an underlying meat allergy. They say that while the chances that someone could experience this delayed anaphylaxis from the vaccines is low, it has "significant public health implications."

This allergy to red meat and gelatin is increasing in prevalence around the world, and the researchers say that clinicians should be made aware of the "risk of anaphylaxis to vaccines containing higher gelatin content, such as MMR and zoster vaccine, especially because of their parenteral delivery. "

The team reported that when something is injected into a person rather than eaten by a person with gelatin hypersensitivity, the "likelihood of allergic response" increases. The researchers stressed that they don't know what the threshold is before they experienced anaphylaxis in response to a vaccine and that determining such a threshold is important, especially with these meat allergies being on the rise.

This study which examined the link between meat allergies and vaccines was conducted under institutional review board–approved protocols from each of the following schools: Vanderbilt University, the University of Virginia, and the University of North Carolina.

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