Lone Star Tick May Cause Meat Allergies, Adds Insult to Injury
The Lone Star tick really knows how to party, because after biting a person and sucking out their blood and totally invading their personal space and terrifying them on the way home from the beach, the insect actually may leave victims with an allergy to meat and unable to eat tasty, tasty hamburgers for an unspecified period of time.
The Lone Star tick is not a new discovery in and of itself — it’s not even an invasive species, found all up and down the United States. Yes, the Lone Star tick has been hitching a ride in your boxers for a long time in the US — but the connection between the little nibbler and meat allergies is a new and terrifying development in the horrible things bugs do to us without our knowledge.
The Lone Star tick’s bizarre and unwanted powers are a new find, after many patients in the south and up the East Coast began presenting with the symptoms of a meat allergy and one linkable feature in common. Every patient with the specific type of allergy (galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or “alpha-gal,” which kind of sounds like the foil to Captain America) was also bitten at some point by a Lone Star tick.
The Lone Star tick and alpha-gal link was first mentioned in published research by two University of Virginia allergists. One of the experts, Dr. Scott Commins, explains:
“People will eat beef and then anywhere from three to six hours later start having a reaction; anything from hives to full-blown anaphylactic shock… And most people want to avoid having the reaction, so they try to stay away from the food that triggers it.”
Dr. Erin McGintee has seen cases of the Lone Star tick-induced allergy in New York, and she explains:
“Intellectually, it’s such a cool allergy on so many levels… It’s a sugar, not a protein, and most food allergies occur in response to a protein antigen.”
Perhaps, but it also sucks, because no hamburgers. Currently, Lone Star tick bite sufferers are SOL on that count as well — there is no known way to treat meat allergies.