More people in the US are now becoming allergic to red meat after they get bitten by a strange species of insect called the lone star tick. This type of allergy is extremely rare, but it has now become more common with the spread of this tick species in the US.
Where does the red meat allergy come from?
Americans must have exhibited the red meat allergy for quite a long time. However, these cases occurred rarely, so it was hard for doctors to find out where it came from. Ten years ago, Dr. Scott Commins was the first to link the allergy with lone star tick bites.
In nine years, doctors have recorded 537 cases of such allergies related to ticks. However, since the beginning of the year, the number has risen at an alarming rate, getting close to 5,000. Statistics show the number of cases tripled between 2004 and 2016, so the situation was already bad.
Why has this red meat allergy become more common? Most probably, climate change played the most important role here. Higher temperatures allowed dangerous insects to move to different areas, spreading more dangerous diseases. A good example is the lone star tick, which used to live in the south-east of US. Now, it has spread to most eastern states, as well as several central ones.
How does a lone star tick cause a red meat allergy?
Researchers have a theory on how a lone star tick can trigger these allergies. Some mammals we eat produce a natural sugar called alpha gal which these insects pick up. Whenever they bite a human, they transfer this sugar that our bodies interpret as a threat. Therefore, they produce antibodies for the alpha gal. Whenever the bitten person takes a bite of red meat, the antibodies get activated.
The allergic reaction differs from one person to another. Usually, it can appear as gastrointestinal pains for a few hours after they eat the meat. However, in other cases, it can be a lot more severe. This allergy is similar to the common dairy allergy, and they might often affect a person together.
Image source: Public Domain Files
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