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Lone Star Tick Bite Might Trigger Red Meat Allergy: Study
Date:11/9/2012

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- New research adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests certain tick bites may cause even the most seasoned of carnivores to develop an allergy to red meat.

Here's how it works in humans, experts say: The Lone Star tick, which is found largely in central and southern U.S. regions, injects spit into your body when it bites you. When this occurs, your body develops antibodies to a carbohydrate in the tick's spit that is known as alpha-gal, a carbohydrate that is also present in red meat. The person then eats meat, and an allergic reaction is triggered.

This reaction tends to occur within three to six hours after eating meat, and can range in severity from mild hives and itching to full-blown anaphylactic shock (a potentially deadly reaction).

The new study found that positive alpha-gal rates are actually 32 percent higher in states where the Lone Star tick is known to lurk, compared with other parts of the country. That said, there were higher than expected rates of alpha-gal positivity even in states where the Lone Star tick is not usually seen, the investigators noted.

The findings are to be presented Friday at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) annual meeting, in Anaheim, Calif.

This red meat-tick connection was first discovered when researchers were trying to determine why a certain cancer drug was causing severe allergic reactions in people in the southern states. As it turns out, the sugars in that drug are also present in beef, pork and cow's milk.

"It's called molecular mimicry, and it is fascinating," said Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious diseases specialist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. "This new study substantiates the frequency of this risk."

Climate change may also mean that Lone Star ticks will start appearing in other regions, so the findings "empha
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