November 21, 2012 10:38 am
In addition to spreading Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ticks are now identified as the likely culprit of a new bane specific to carnivores: an allergic reaction to meat. Though ticks have been not pin-pointed as the source of this unusual allergy for sure, scientists say that a growing body of evidence does trace the condition back to the pests. ScienceNOW reports on the finding:
The meat allergy, known as alpha-gal for a sugar carbohydrate found in beef, lamb, and pork, produces a hivelike rash—and, in some people, a dangerous anaphylactic reaction—roughly 4 hours after consuming meat. But unlike other common food allergies, the alpha-gal allergy has been found only in people who have been bitten by ticks—specifically the lone star tick, previously best known for causing a condition called southern tick-associated rash illness, the symptoms of which include rash, fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle pains.
Many people who develop the allergy, which manifests as a case of hives up to 6 hours after their meal, don’t make the connection between the meat and the problem, so it often goes undiagnosed
So far, no one is sure what substance in the tick’s saliva is responsible to developing the allergy-inducing antibodies, although researchers have confirmed that the bites increase the problematic protein triggers. So far, around 1,500 people have been diagnosed in the United States, and that number is only rising.
Preventing the tick bites is the only way to stop the allergy before it starts—but Platts-Mills says once a person has the allergy, there is some evidence that if they don’t continue to get bitten they will eventually get better. But until then, it’s best to pass on the BBQ.
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