The ironically named “Lone Star Tick” (because God knows, we love our red meat in Texas), scientifically named Amblyomma americanum, has a bite that can make its victim deathly allergic to red meats…for life. Don’t laugh….as a Texan I can tell you we need to declare war on these pests RIGHT NOW.
Like most ticks, this bug, local to the southeastern United States and the eastern half of Texas, carries any number of nasty diseases with it, but it’s this substance it carries called alpha-gal, a carbohydrate found in non-primate mammals. We digest this carbohydrate all the time with no problem with digestion, but when it enters the bloodstream via the tick, our body freaks the heck out. Antibodies are created to protect against it and they stay in the system. So what happens is, the next time you ingest meat from a mammal…wham, pow…extreme allergic reaction. And to make it worse, in some cases, the reaction gets worse in each case where the person infected is exposed to alpha-gals.
The allergic reactions that have been recorded vary greatly, but have been found to in some cases be dangerous, even fatal. From an article published in Science Daily: “The allergy can cause hives and swelling, as well as broader symptoms of anaphylaxis including vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, and a drop in blood pressure. Persons with the allergy can go into a delayed anaphylactic shock four-six hours after eating red meat.” Doctors advise that if you are infected, carry an EPI pen just in case. But that’s about all they know what to do because this condition, according to what we known about food-based allergies, shouldn’t even exist in the first place. Most allergies are protein based and alpha-gal is a sugar, making it the ONLY sugar-based allergy known.
The real fear for me? That some crazy folks from PETA will make a tick bomb or something and let it loose on the streets of Austin. I mean, you can still eat fish or chicken, but I do like a tasty burger. I wonder what vegetarian terrorist tastes like?