Meat allergy caused by tick spit is getting more common in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.

Around 110,000 suspected cases of alpha-gal syndrome have been identified in the U.S., although officials believe the actual number of cases might be more than 450,000.

Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) or tick bite meat allergy is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic condition caused by the consumption of red meat or other products containing alpha-gal.

Alpha-gal is not a bacteria or virus but a sugar found in pork, beef, rabbit meat, lamb meat, venison, milk products and gelatin. It is also found in the tick spit.

The symptoms usually begin three to six hours after a person is exposed to the sugar molecule. The bite of a lone star tick is the most common cause of AGS in the U.S. Some people may not show any symptoms after exposure to the sugar molecule, while the allergy can cause mild to serious anaphylactic reactions in others.

Here are the symptoms to watch out for:

  • Hives or itchy rash
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Cough, shortness of breath
  • Blood pressure drop
  • Swelling of the lips, throat, tongue or eyelids
  • Dizziness
  • Severe stomach pain

The diagnosis of AGS is done through a detailed examination of the patient history, physical examination and a blood test that looks for specific antibodies to alpha-gal.

Dr. Scott Commins, a University of North Carolina researcher who co-authored two papers published by the CDC, said AGS could be the 10th most common food allergy in the U.S.

"Alpha-gal syndrome is an important emerging public health problem, with potentially severe health impacts that can last a lifetime for some patients. It's critical for clinicians to be aware of AGS so they can properly evaluate, diagnose, and manage their patients and also educate them on tick-bite prevention to protect patients from developing this allergic condition," Dr. Ann Carpenter, an epidemiologist and lead author of one of the research paper, said in a news release.

"The burden of alpha-gal syndrome in the United States could be substantial given the large percentage of cases suspected to be going undiagnosed due to non-specific and inconsistent symptoms, challenges seeking healthcare, and lack of clinician awareness," noted Dr. Johanna Salzer, a senior author on both papers.