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The tick that can make you allergic to meat

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Although long rumored and speculated upon, science has now confirmed that a specific breed of tick, which is spreading across the U.S., can cause red meat allergies in people the tick bites.

Discovered a few years ago in the Southeastern United States, the Lone Star Tick is becoming common in both the southern and eastern portions of the nation. Ranging from Texas to Florida and up as far north as Long Island, the ticks are now found to be the cause of meat allergies.

The Lone Star ticks aren't alone, however. Other, related species are found to be having the same effect in Australia, France, Germany, Sweden, and parts of Asia.

Science has figured out the process with recent research. The ticks have a sugar that doesn't exist in humans called alpha-gal. This is found in red meat and some dairy products. In foods, our bodies digests and has no problems with the sugar. When bitten by a tick that imparts it to us, however, we can create a reaction to the sugar as an immune system response.

Quite often, and more puzzling, the allergic reaction has a long delay thanks to the way our bodies process meats when eaten. The allergic reaction may take hours to manifest. This is part of the reason it's taken so long to find the cause.

The good news is that it's believed that the allergy is relatively temporary and over time, the antibodies causing the reaction can decrease and disappear. Researchers aren't sure about the time frame, but believe it may not be permanent.

The Centers for Disease Control has created a map documenting where the Lone Star Tick can be found.

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