How a tick bite can turn you vegetarian: They inject a 'venom' that triggers meat allergy
A carbohydrate compound injected into the bloodstream by the bite is also present in meat
15:11 GMT, 25 July 2012
Meat-free menu A handful of tick-bite cases in the U.S have triggered food allergies
A steak may never seem as appetising again after a tick bite, warn researchers.
Being bitten by one of the spider-like bugs can trigger a severe allergy to meat, scientists have learned.
Three cases of the strange reaction were identified in the US. The patients suffered severe symptoms several hours after eating red meat.
Experts traced the delayed allergic response to bites from a tick – specifically the Lone Star tick.
A carbohydrate compound injected into the bloodstream by the bite is also present in meat. The initial bite is thought to prime the immune system to react next time it encounters the substance.
The result when the unsuspecting victim tries tucking into a steak can be an outbreak of hives, or even life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Dr Susan Wolver, from Virginia Commonwealth University, and colleagues described the research in the Journal of Internal Medicine.
They wrote: 'Where ticks are endemic, for example in the south-eastern United States, clinicians should be aware of this new syndrome when presented with a case of anaphylaxis.
'Current guidance is to counsel patients to avoid all mammalian meat – beef, pork, lamb and venison.'
When ticks bite, they latch onto the skin and feed on blood. Tick bites occur
most often during early spring and late summer months.
Simple ways to
prevent tick bites include avoiding bushy and wooded areas with high
grass, walking in the center of trails, and applying insect repellent.
Lone star ticks may prime the immune system against a compound found in meat
It is recommended to shower as soon as returning inside after exploring
or working outdoors and also to perform a full body inspection for any
Remove the tick with tweezers by gently gripping it as close to the skin as possible and pulling it away from the skin.
The insects can also spread the bacterial infection Lyme disease. The most common early symptom is a red circular rash that develops around the bite. If left untreated you can develop symptoms up to years later including muscle pain, swelling of the joints and temporary facial paralysis.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) estimates that there are 2,000 to 3,000 cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year.