Have you always desired to become a vegetarian, but haven’t been able to resist a perfectly seared cut of steak or a crispy strip of bacon? Maybe you should take a walk through the wilderness, because a bite from the inconspicuous lone star tick is able to accomplish what hundreds of graphic PETA commercials have failed to do — it can turn you into a vegetarian. [related]
For the most part.
Although you may still be able to eat poultry and fish, a bite from the lone star trick can trigger a delayed allergic response to the alpha-gal sugar, a molecule found in the flesh of all mammals besides monkeys, apes, and humans. The alpha-gal sugar naturally exists in red meat and pork products, but it doesn’t produce an adverse reaction in humans unless it is injected directly into the blood stream, as it can be during a bite from the lone star tick. After the initial bite from the tick, the next time the alpha-gal sugar is consumed, whether it be from a hamburger or a lamb chop, the body will have an allergic reaction and break out in hives, body itching, stomach pains, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis.
Hives, itchy rashes, and potentially life-threatening swelling of the throat are strong deterrents that will have diners reconsidering whether they really need red meat in their lives. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says not to worry though; this form of meat allergy is uncommon. However, if you’re still concerned, be especially alert when walking through the eastern United States.