As the temperatures rise across the globe, the Lone Star Tick has started to spread farther than it ever has before, bringing with it a curious condition. Ticks are small and their bites aren’t always immediately noticeable which can lead to a wide range of unexpected medical issues. While some of these conditions can be treated, one particular result of being bitten by a Lone Star Tick has people very upset. One bite can lead to a lifelong allergy to red meat.
Robert Valet, Professor of Medicine at the Asthma, Since and Allergy Program Clinic of Vanderbilt, isn’t completely sure exactly how the allergy starts, but has a strong suspicion that it is caused by this particular tick. There is an “alpha-gal sugar” inside of the tick’s gut, and when the tick bites, the alpha-gal sugar makes its way into the person’s bloodstream. While humans no longer produce this particular sugar, it is present in red meat, pork, and certain dairy products.
That causes the production of the allergy antibody that then cross-reacts to the meat,” he says.
This means that in order to fight off the infection introduced by the tick, a person’s body creates an anitbody that recognizes red meat as a threat, as if it were another tick bite, causing the new allergy!Some people have such strong allergic reactions to red meat after being bitten by this tick, they have to carrying epinephrine in case they accidentally encounter red meat. Other cases are so severe that the person is forced to avoid red meat, dairy products, and pork. They are still able to eat poultry and fish, but red meat is off of the menu.