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article imageLone Star tick spreads north — Saliva linked to red meat allergy

By Karen Graham     Jun 20, 2017 in Health
Thanks to climate change, insects that are normally found in the southern regions of the United States are spreading northward, and they are bringing the diseases they can transmit along with them. Such is the case with the Southeastern Lone Star tick.
While health officials in most states across the nation are familiar with tick-borne diseases like Lyme Disease or anaplasmosis, a new tick on the block is raising eyebrows and calls for more research.
Amblyomma americanum, also known as the Lone Star Tick, the Northeastern Water Tick, or the Turkey Tick, is native to much of the Eastern U.S. and Mexico. Its bite is usually painless, and most often, it will go unnoticed until it is fully engorged with the victim's blood.
The tick is known to carry a number of pathogenic bacteria, including Francisella tularensis and Rickettsia amblyommii. However, the bite of the Lone Star tick has been linked to a severe life-long allergy to red meats.
The allergy is a reaction to agents in the tick's saliva. Interestingly, not everyone will develop an allergy to red meats, but for those that do, it can be quite severe.
Amblyomma americanum (Lone Star tick)
Amblyomma americanum (Lone Star tick)
CDC - Division of Vector Borne Infectious Diseases
Studies have shown that the allergy, called Alpha-gal allergy, is caused by a reaction to a sugar called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal), in which the human body become overloaded with immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies trying to fight off the invasive allergen when red meat is ingested.
The allergy most often occurs in the central and southern United States, where the meat allergy rates are 32 percent higher than in other parts of the nation. There is still a lot to be learned about this particular tick-borne disease.
The allergy was first formally identified as originating from tick bites in a 2009 paper by Sheryl van Nunen.
So far, cases of this strange meat allergy have been reported in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and New York, with Long Island reporting at least 100 cases in the last year. This latest bit of news is just a reminder, again, that tick season this year will be particularly bad.
More about lone star tick, allergy to red meat, protein in saliva, alpha gal allergy, southeastern US
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