A Certain Tick Breed Can Now Make You Allergic to Red Meat
As if ticks couldn’t get any worse, you’ll now have to worry about more than just Lyme disease if you happen to find a tick on you this summer.
Multiple sources are reporting that more and more people across the United States are now having severe allergic reactions to red meat following the bite of a “lone star” tick, which is particular strain of ticks with saliva capable of reprogramming your body’s immune system.
Did you know that red meat contains simple sugar molecules? Therein lies the problem for those who are bitten by the lone star tick.
There’s a protein-linked saccharide (galactose-alpha-1,3-galatcose) commonly referred to as “alpha-gal” in red meats that will spark symptoms of hives, swelling and even anaphylaxis – if you have come into contact with the saliva of the lone-star tick, Wired reports.
A single bite can reprogram the body’s immune systems to produce antibodies to this sugar molecule found in all red meats, says Thomas Platts-Mills, a immunologist from the University of Virginia who has been studying this phenomena since 2004.
Don’t think this could happen to you?
There’s a particularly devastating aspect about the lone star bite that will alarm you: anyone is susceptible to this tick-induced meat allergy, not just those people with certain genes.
And what’s more is that this tick is apparently on the move.
There’s brand new cases popping up everyday in places like Duluth, Minnesota, and Hanover, New Hampshire – far, far away from the Southeast, where the lone-star is usually lurking. Scientists can’t seem to work fast enough to trace the source of this spread and if other ticks besides the lone-star are now able to transmit this dangerous allergy as well.
Other tick-borne illnesses, Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, have largely been on the upswing in the United States since 2000. The CDC reports that nearly 30,000 Americans each year are diagnosed with Lyme disease, and almost 95% of cases come from states along the Northeastern seaboard and Virginia, Wisconsin and Vermont. Lyme-disease is mostly treatable by heavy antibiotics, as is anaplasmosis with the help of a drug known as doxycycline.
But, in what is probably the scariest development from the spread of lone star ticks across the country, the allergic reactions caused by antibodies attacking alpha-gal in red meat can’t be cured currently.
Here’s hoping that those scientists are able to come up with a solution, and fast.
For more information on keeping you and your family safe from all ticks, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.