According to a recent study, tick bites are spreading meat allergies across the southeastern United States. The National Institutes of Health published a report by researchers who believe that the bite of lone star ticks, named for the white spot on its back, is spreading meat allergies. So far thousands of individuals have been affected, but researchers are still not entirely sure of the mechanism by which the allergy occurs; they are nearly certain that it has something to do with the saliva of the ticks.
People suffering from this new allergy are unable to consume any type of mammalian meat (like beef, pork, lamb, and venison) without consequence. Patients have reported symptoms which include hives, which are raised and often itchy, red welts on the surface of the skin and acute anaphylaxis (a dangerous and potentially fatal allergic reaction). The reactions are serious enough to require hospitalization in some cases and all of the reactions are enough to lead an affected individual to avoid mammalian meat. The reaction seems to occur anywhere from 3-6 hours after eating meat.
Blood tests of affected individuals have shown elevated levels of IgE antibodies to the mammalian oligosaccharide galactose-α-1. This galactose is found in significant quantities in most mammalian meat. The elevated levels of IgE antibodies produce an severe allergic reaction after individuals consume meat containing the galactose. This could be especially unfortunate for outdoorsmen and women who usually spend more time in areas with ticks than other persons.
A link to the full report can be found here (pdf).
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Image courtesy of the US Centers for Disease Control - Division of Vector Borne Infectious Diseases