For most individuals who spend time outdoors, the occasional tick bite is a part of life. However, thousands of workers within Kentucky have occupations that expose them to ticks more frequently. As surveillance of these ticks has been increasing, the presence of medically significant ticks is more widespread across Kentucky, and in higher numbers, then was previously thought. Multiple species of ticks found on the eastern side of North America are known to carry pathogens that can cause human disease and have recently been identified as a culprit in causing type I sensitization to alpha-gal, a carbohydrate found on non-primate mammalian cells. This type of sensitization has been linked to triggering allergic reactions when exposed to alpha-gal through consumption of red meat or other hooved animal-based products such as gelatin, or the medication Erbitux, and even medical procedures such as Porcine or Bovine Valve Replacements.
This study will be looking at the alpha-gal specific IgE antibodies in serum samples taken from Forestry workers and Loggers in Kentucky, as well as determining their blood type. A questionnaire will also be administered to participants to characterize risk of tick exposures and clinical symptoms of allergic reactions. This study will be used to determine a prevalence of type I sensitization to alpha-gal within Forestry workers and Loggers of Kentucky, whether blood type is a confounding factor, and if this sensitization is likely causing clinical symptoms within the workers.