Bizarre side effect: Tick bite could turn you vegetarian
A bite from a certain kind of tick, could give you an allergy to meat. The so-called Lone Star tick, which has a single white spot on its back, is the one to watch out for.
The ticks have a sugar that humans don’t have called Alpha-Gal. The sugar is also in red meats and some dairy.
Jeffrey Tucker, an urban entomologist in Houston, explains how a human becomes allergic to meat.
“It develops antibodies, a way to fight those foreign antigens, it could happen weeks or months or years later. You eat some meat, that sugar is also found in meat and your body reacts to it,” said Tucker.
“As an allergist, it’s unbelievable,” said Dr. Clifford Bassett, Medical Director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. “What it means is, if you have a Lone Star tick, and it bites you, within several days, things are occurring in your immune system and you actually may develop delayed reactions to red meat. That includes beef, pork and lamb.”
A person with the tick triggered meat allergy can have a serious reaction with symptoms that include a constricted throat and hives which can be treated with epinephrine.
Ticks are known to cause Lyme Disease, but that is spread though bites from blacklegged ticks. If you are bitten by a tick, doctors advise you hold on to the bug and bring it in to be tested. A Lone Star tick does not carry Lyme Disease.