Could This Tick Turn You Into a Vegetarian?
Is there a bug that’s turning red meat eaters into vegetarians?
Yep. A bite from a Lone Star tick is making some people “allergic” to red meat, resulting in hives, swelling and breathing problems. Some sufferers go into full anaphylactic shock four to six hours after eating meat.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
• Trouble breathing
• Drop in blood pressure
• Closing of the throat
The allergic reaction is to the alpha-gal sugar present in red meat. Doctors are theorizing that the Lone Star tick maintains the sugar in its gut and saliva and introduces it to victims during a bite. This causes the production of the allergy antibody, which then reacts to the alpha-gal in red meat.
Lone Star tick allergies are affecting patients in Southeastern states and spreading up the Eastern Seaboard with the deer population. The allergy is putting victims off beef and pork, though they can safely eat poultry. Some patients even react to milk.
Once a patient becomes allergic to meat, there’s no good way to desensitize them, says Dr. Robert Valet, of Vanderbilt’s Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program.
“It certainly is a big disruption for a lot of people’s lives,” Valet told Science Daily. “Things like your classic barbeque really become off limits.”
Doctors are telling victims to avoid ticks and, if they are bitten and develop the allergy, carry an EpiPen if they have exposure to red meat.
Image credit: CDC Public Image Library