Tick gives meat allergy

03:59 SGT August 18, 2017
The Lone Star tick bite is making people allergic to meat in the US

A tick targeting Alpha-Gal, a sugar molecule that activates your allergy immune system is making headways in the US. Short for galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose, Alpha-Gal is commonly found in mammalian meat. Once bitten, your body creates Alpha-Gal antibodies and, from that point on, the body is wired to fight these Alpha-Gal sugar molecules. Therefore, most people who develop Alpha-Gal allergy syndrome realize their illness after eating meat.

Named after the Texas-shaped marking on its back, a Lone Star tick bite rewires the body’s immune system. The symptoms of the tick bite are delayed; thus, most people do not immediately realize they have a reaction. It first travels through the gastrointestinal tract and hours later, patients wake up with hives, shortness of breath, vomiting and diarrhoea.

“The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions,” said Dr Ronald Saff, an allergist in Tallahassee, Florida, and an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Florida State University College of Medicine.

Originally found in south-eastern part of the US, the disease is starting to become more common in farther north and western regions that experience warm temperatures too. Cases of tick-borne illness have been popping up as far north as Long Island, New York, and as far west as Minnesota.

Up to this point, much about the Lone Star tick and Alpha-Gal is a mystery. No one knows for sure whether the allergy goes with time or not. That may be the case, but scientists certainly do think additional tick bites and meat consumption might worsen the condition.