Tick species found to cause 'meat allergy'
Recently, scientists discovered new, non-natural food allergy: meat. The meat "allergy" is a tick-borne illness that causes the body to see most meat as an unwanted threat.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the symptoms of the meat allergy are "hives or skin rash, nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea, stuffy/runny nose. sneezing, headaches, asthma, and anaphylaxis, a severe potentially deadly allergic reaction that restricts breathing." The symptoms, which are typical of a normal allergic reaction, occur after eating meat from mammals or poultry.
The allergy has been studied ever since 1990. The allergy is triggered by a bite from a lone star tick. The female lone star tick is easy to spot because it has a white splotch on its back. According to New York Times, the tick "is common in the warm and humid Southeast, where most cases of meat allergy have been diagnosed." The chances of getting the meat allergy are 32% higher in the southeastern parts of America.
The allergy, also known as alpha-gal allergy, first appeared in 2016. According to the New York Times, a man named Lee Niegelsky's underarm began to itch and "he thought he’d been bitten by a chigger. But within 15 minutes, hives had erupted all over his body." After around 15 minutes, the itching became unbearable, and he decided he had to drive to the nearest hospital. As he was telling the nurses his symptoms, he began to feel light-headed. Staff offered him a wheelchair, and he passed out immediately upon sitting down.
When Niegelsky woke up, the hospital staff asked if he was on drugs or if he had heart problems. He said he was perfectly healthy and drug free, and he felt as if bugs were crawling and biting every inch of his upper body. The doctors said his symptoms seemed like anaphylaxis. According to New York Times, "Niegelsky did recall that he had a very bad allergic reaction a month earlier to a tick bite he got at a concert."
Below is a graphic of the areas in which the lone star tick is commonly found: