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Man left housebound by potentially deadly meat allergy triggered by tick bites

A part-time dog walker has been left housebound after tick bites left him with a life threatening allergy to red meat. 

Christopher Goldman suffers from alpha-gal syndrome, a tickborne illness that can cause anaphylaxis if he eats mammal meat such as beef, pork or lamb.

He believes any exposure, including airborne transmission, to any mammal by-product including wool, diary and leather will trigger a reaction.

Read more: What is alpha-gal and why does it cause an allergy to meat?

The 28-year-old now only wears vegan approved clothing and uses household products that are guaranteed animal free. This regime extends to everything he eats and includes all medicines.

He has to carry an epi-pen at all times, wears an emergency contact bracelet and lives in just three rooms in his home. Anything that he suspects might contain mammal products have been piled up in a room at the front of the house.

Christopher was bitten by the parasite in woods near his home in Woking in Surrey. He has since been bitten at least four times since December and has since suffered eight fainting episodes, including five on the same day.

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Christopher was bitten by ticks whilst dog walking in Surrey
Image:
Christopher was bitten by ticks whilst dog walking in Surrey

The most serious episode was on 28 June.

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The full-time business production manager, said: “I woke up with intense itching and I was very hot. I did not want to wake up my girlfriend so I went to the bathroom.

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“My skin was crimson red and I had hives all over my body. I noticed a strange sensation in my hands, my face and my tongue began to swell. As my throat began to constrict I stood up and felt a ‘wash’ down to my feet.”

Christopher has been forced to pile anything he believes contains mammal products into one room
Image:
Christopher has been forced to pile anything he believes contains mammal products into one room

That was when Christopher fainted. He regained consciousness on the bathroom floor, but still unable to cry for help. He lay on his back helpless and terrified.

“I just spent the time looking up at the ceiling, just waiting to either die or see what happened to me. It was definitely the most traumatic experience ever.”

Christopher had eaten red meat a few hours before his anaphylaxis and suspected that might have been the trigger.

Signs warning about ticks

But he says the A&E doctors who treated him at his local hospital were unaware of any related conditions. A private blood test confirmed Christopher’s tick bites had developed into alpha-gal syndrome.

The condition is caused when a person is bitten by a tick which carries the alpha-gal molecule in its saliva, which when in the blood stream causes the immune system to make antibodies causing a reaction to red meat.

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However the condition is believe to be rare, with only a few cases reported in the UK. There is also no scientific evidence to support Christopher’s belief of the risks of airborne transmission.

He says not enough research is being done, and people who raise concerns are often dismissed out of hand.

“Doctors are telling people that it is psychosomatic, that it is anxiety or stress induced, and they’re not getting help,” Christopher said.

“But what I’m here to speak up about the debilitating side of this, leaving people housebound and with my life completely torn up, more research needs to be done because we’re getting absolutely no help.”

A chance and random tick bite has had devastating consequences for Christopher, who is now resigned to staying indoors.

“If nothing does change I have to face the possibility that I won’t be leaving the house for the indefinite future,” he added.

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