8 months ago
Red meat allergies are on the rise in America—and health professionals have a beef with a tiny insect as a result.
A bites from a Lone Star Tick spreads a sugar molecule, called Alpha-Gal, which can cause people to become allergic to meat. As it gets warmer, the tick has been appearing in more areas than previously documented.
Once the Lone Star tick, named for the Texas-shaped white spot on its back, bites a human, their immune system is effectively re-wired by creating antibodies for Alpha-Gal, short for galactose-alpha-1.
According to National Geographic, even just one bite can form an allergy that causes hives, shortness of breath, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, patients have been hospitalized. The symptoms can be treated, but there’s no vaccine for the allergy itself.
Typically found in the Southeastern U.S., cases of the tick-related illness have been reported as far north as New York and as far west as Minnesota.
The CDC doesn’t track these cases, so reports are anecdotal. According to Wired, 100 cases in new areas have been reported in the last year.