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Aggressive Tick Could Cause Meat Allergy in Humans

Jun 28, 2017 08:58 AM EDT
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Health experts are warning everyone to be extra cautious this summer due to the increasing incidence people getting bitten by ticks and suddenly developing an allergy to red meats.

The bite of the so-called Lone Star tick can trigger certain antibodies that can result to severe reactions to a sugar molecules commonly found in red meats. As a result, some patients bitten by this tick will develop meat allergy, even if they have been consuming meat before.

"It's not the classic 'my throat is closing when I eat peanut butter,' reaction," according to Dr. Scott Commins, an associate professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology, allergy & immunology at the Thurston Research Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in a report from USA Today. "These [patients] would get hives and talk about G.I. distress, or needing to go to the restroom, and itching and swelling. Some would have to go to the ER to get treated."

According to National Geographic, the allergic reaction from the tick bite could have a time delay. The allergic reaction was caused by the sugar molecule known as galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose, or Alpha-Gal. When a Lone Star tick carrying Alpha-Gal bites human, it triggers the development of antibodies to fight off the sugar molecule. Due to this, the patient becomes unable to consume red meat without having any kind of adverse reaction.

Patients who developed meat allergy may experience hives, shortness of breath, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea when they consume meat. In more fatal reactions, patients could have difficulty in breathing, experience low blood pressure, fainting and even death.

Despite not having the ability to spread Lyme disease, Lone Star ticks can be considered as extremely dangerous at its own right. Allergies can only be treated for its side effects, but no vaccines or cures are available so far.

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