The only star tick that makes people allergic to red meat is in the capital

Placeholder while loading article actions

Our recent warm weather has reawakened the tick, and one species in particular is becoming more common in the metropolitan area: the lone star tick. A single bite of this tick, which is easily recognizable by the white spot on its back if it is a female, can cause a lifelong negative reaction to eating red meat.

The only star tick originated in the southern states but has spread north and west to cover most of the eastern half of the country. With a warm climate, more ticks live in the winter months, and their range expands.

Unlike the black-legged (deer) tick, the lone star tick does not transmit Lyme disease, but it can produce a severe food allergy in people known as alpha-gal syndrome. Which He is allergic to red meat.

How to protect yourself from ticks

When lone star ticks feed on mammals, such as mice, rabbits, or deer, they ingest alpha-gal sugars. Later, if the ticks bite and feed on humans, they inject alpha-gal sugars with their saliva into their human host.

Because people do not have alpha-gal in their bodies, the human immune system recognizes alpha-gal from a tick bite as a foreign substance and mounts a response, including the development of antibodies. Often, the bite site becomes swollen and itchy.

But red meat, which contains alpha-gal sugars, can trigger more reactions. If red meat is eaten by people who have been bitten by a lone star tick, the immune system recognizes the alpha-gal in the meat as a foreign substance. As a result, the body’s reaction escalates, often more severe than the initial response to a tick bite.

An alpha-gal allergy to red meat can cause a rash, hives, itching, swelling, shortness of breath, headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. In severe cases, a person may experience anaphylaxis, which is a fatal allergic reaction.

At first, alpha-gal syndrome was difficult to diagnose because the allergic reaction occurs several hours after eating meat. In addition, an allergy to red meat is lifelong and can get worse over time.

Living with alpha-gal syndrome

Keith Tremel of Edgewater, Md. , is a competitive barbecue cook who cannot eat or taste dishes of smoked beef and pork. He needs to wear rubber gloves when handling red meat, otherwise he will get a rash. He contracted alpha-gal syndrome after a single tick bite five years ago, and had a severe allergic reaction to most of the meat he cooked.

Trimmel recalls the tick bite: “A tick bit me on my thigh while I was sleeping. It woke me up. I pulled the tick and saw the white dot right away. I had recently read an article about alpha-gal and the lone star, so I recognized it right away. I wouldn’t say the bite was painful, But she woke me up.”

Shortly after the tick bite, Tremmel ate a hamburger and broke out in a rash over most of his body. A week later, another hamburger caused the same rash. Later, a third hamburger led to a similar result, and Tremmel went to see a doctor for fear of alpha-gal syndrome.

Tremel’s doctor had never heard of alpha-gal and looked at it on his laptop while Tremel waited. The diagnosis was already alpha-gal syndrome. “It was uncomfortable when I realized I knew more about alpha-gal than a medical professional,” he said in an email.

“Before my diagnosis, I loved bacon cheeseburgers. My wife and kid both love bacon, and my son enjoys steaks, so cooking for them can be a bit of a torture. For barbecue and catering competitions, I’m used to it now, but at first, It was frustrating.”

Tremel and his colleagues compete at the Barbeque Society in Kansas City, cooking chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket in each competition. He said chicken was the only meat he could taste. For the rest of the dishes, comment on the taste buds of “teammates to make any last-minute changes to our roles, like does it need more seasoning, or less seasoning, is it salty, too sweet, etc?”

Since Tremmel Alpha-gal was diagnosed, his favorite foods have changed to chicken tacos and pizza. “So far, dairy hasn’t affected me, so cheese is still fine.”

William Gimple, a retired entomologist from the Maryland Department of Agriculture, was bitten some time ago by a tick in the northern part of Virginia. But it wasn’t until six years ago that he was officially diagnosed with alpha-gal syndrome.

Gimpel’s allergic reaction to red meat was severe. In an email, he said, “I had a rash, fainted, had low blood pressure, and told my wife on the way to the emergency room I couldn’t see her. This was the most serious reaction.”

The number of ticks is booming. Is climate change the cause?

At first, Gimbel was told he had an allergy to beef. Therefore, he dined on pork, lamb and venison for several years. Then he had an allergic reaction to pork, and three months later he reacted badly Mutton. Finally, he found an allergist who correctly diagnosed him as alpha-gal syndrome.

Gimpel remains optimistic despite his sensitivity. He wrote: “The best news is that I eat all non-red meat, including chicken, turkey, fish, crabs and other shellfish!”

Not all lone star tick bites produce alpha-gal syndrome. I was bitten last month in the metropolitan area but haven’t been allergic to red meat…yet. In fact, I have been bitten by more than a dozen single ticks.

The increase in ticks can be attributed to higher temperatures across the seasons. Michael Robb, Professor Emeritus of Entomology at the University of Maryland, Warmer temperatures in the winter, he said, allow more ticks to survive the usually harsh season. The mild weather in fall, winter, and spring also allows them to seek hosts for longer periods, increasing their chances of survival. In addition, Robb said, increasing the animals that ticks are feeding on, such as white-tailed deer, is also helping to increase tick numbers.

In addition to alpha-gal, lone star ticks transmit diseases, including Southern tick rash disease (STARI), which results in rashes, fever, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and Ehrlichiosis, which produces flu-like symptoms, including headaches. Joint and muscle pain, fever and fatigue.

The female solo star tick has a white spot on its back, but the male does not, which makes identification more difficult. However, the single star tick has a different shape than the dog tick and is much larger than the deer tick (see photo above).

If you have alpha-gal syndrome, genetically modified meat may be an option. More recently, pigs have been genetically modified to remove alpha-gal sugars so that their organs can be transplanted into humans with less chance of rejection. Leftover meat can be used as food for people with alpha-gal syndrome.

One company, Revvicor, sent packets of alpha-gal-free pork to people with the syndrome. The meat does not seem to cause allergies.

In December 2020, the Food and Drug Administration approved genetic modification of pigs for human food and cosmetics, so there may be a future for selling alpha-gal-free meat to people with the syndrome.

Perhaps one day Tremel can grill pork ribs for competition and do his own taste test. Then eat the leftovers.

Leave a Comment