Physicians interviewed by Popular Science believe a bizarre new allergy, which causes a potentially deadly allergic reaction to all forms of meat, is caused by the bite of a tick – and it’s spreading pretty fast. One physician said that he had seen an increase of 200 alpha-gal allergy cases in the past three years – up from practically zero in 2011. The condition is believed to be caused by the bite of the Lone Star tick, a species of tick that is widespread in the United States ranging from Texas to Iowa in the Midwest and east to the coast where it can be found as far north as Maine.
The bite of the tick cause a person to develop a meat allergy to all forms of non-primate mammalian meat (pigs, sheep, cows) and meat products. The allergen in play here is a carbohydrate called galactose-α-1,3-galactose or “alpha gal”.
Popular Science described one man’s experience with the alpha-gal allergy:
“A few hours after dinner, he started itching like mad. He burst into hives, his tongue swelled, and he eventually passed out, prompting his wife to call 911. At the hospital, doctors determined he had gone into anaphylactic shock—a potentially deadly allergic reaction.”
Scientists believe the allergy effect may be temporary – lasting several years. As long as you don’t get bit again.
As for the young man mentioned above.
“It’s possible that if we move some place where I didn’t get tick bites, I could eventually get over this. But I live on a small farm in the middle of the woods in Surry County, Virginia, and I’d rather have the allergy than leave that.”