It could be bad news for pork lovers with cat allergies. While the two may be seemingly unrelated, researchers have found a small number of people with cat sensitivities who are also be allergic to pork.
Dubbed the pork-cat syndrome, the allergy was first recognized in Europe in the mid-1990s but has since been found in the United States as well.
According to the Washington Post, researchers Scott Commins and Thomas Platts-Mills discovered the cases during their research on the alpha-gal allergy. The apha-gal allergy made national news last year after Commins linked the reaction to red meat to tick bites. Click here to learn more.
Though tick bites have been known to cause the allergy in some people, it's generally rare, and pork-cat syndrome even more so.
"Pork-cat is really unusual," Commins says. "It was Europeans who described it, and we thought that there wasn't any of this in the U.S. But there were some patients who were telling us, ‘I eat beef okay, but I can't eat pork and I have reactions pretty quickly." Most of them were negative for alpha-gal, so we were pretty confused. We started wondering if it fit with the pork-cat syndrome. We did tests and found exactly that. Pork-cat is more common than previously thought, but we still don't see much of it."
They found nearly all of the people with the condition own at least one cat, and some also develop an allergic response to cat serum albumin, protein made by a cat's liver, that can cross-react with albumin in pork when consumed.
A 2011 study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma &; Immunology reported blood tests showing all of the people with pork-cat syndrome tested positive for both cat and pork antibiotics.
Of the six cases researched, the majority were women. The average age was 28. Read more here.
Jonathon Posthumus, MD, a fellow in the division of asthma, allergy and immunology at the University of Virginia Health System, explained to NBC News that it's possible the syndrome has been under-recognized in the country because "it can easily be missed if the patient is not properly evaluated and the relationship to cat allergy is not appreciated."