Tick bites could keep you from eating red meat again

Researchers look at whether bites from Lone Star ticks are causing some people to be allergic to red meat


DETROIT – There appears to be a new reason to be concerned about ticks and Lyme disease this summer and it has to do with what you might no longer be able to eat.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, researchers say bites from a particular tick are making some people allergic to red meat.

The symptoms show up about three to six hours after the person eats beef, pork or lamb, but the bite from the tick could occur long before that; even weeks or months.

The first cases were identified by University of Virginia at Charlottesville in 2007, according to WSJ.   People's allergic reaction includes vomiting, cramps, hives and even anaphylactic shock.

The Lone Star tick appears to be the one causing the allergic reaction to red meat.   It is found in the southeastern United States.  

Research published last year in the Journal of Internal Medicine looking at exactly how the reaction occurs.

According to HealthDayNews.com, the saliva of a Lone Star tick has a carbohydrate called alpha-gal that is also present in red meat.  Once the tick bites a person, that person's body develops antibodies to the alpha-gal.   So when they eat red meat again, their immune system reacts and causes an allergic reaction.

People should protect themselves against ticks to prevent Lyme Disease as well.  Signs of Lyme Disease include fever, headaches, fatigue and a skin rash called erythema migrans.   The Centers for Disease Control said if left untreated, the Lyme Disease infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

The CDC said reducing exposure to ticks is the best way to prevent Lyme Disease and other diseases the ticks might transmit.  

The agency recommends avoiding wooded or bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, using insect repellent, and removing ticks as soon as you see them on your skin.  It also suggests applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat.