Weird Nature This Bug Can Make You Allergic To The Only Thing You've Truly Loved - Bacon  

Kate Jacobson
1.7k views 3 items

Just when you think the world can't possibly get any worse, news comes out that takes away from the small joys you cherish each day. There's a tick that exists in the world that can make you allergic to some meat and milk products. And guess what – it's growing in numbers, and it's coming for the Midwest where meat and cheese rule the land.

Called the Lone Star tick, this little creature is causing devastation in communities nationwide. Their bite causes people to become allergic, but not right away. You might be living right now not even knowing you're allergic to meat thanks to this tick, because it can take weeks for the symptoms to surface. So, enjoy your bacon now, people, because tomorrow it might kill you.

This Tick's Bite Can Make You Deathly Allergic To Meat Because The World Is A Cruel Place

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Photo: CDC/Wikimedia Commons

This tick is called the lone star tick, and it's super rude. Its bite contains a type of sugar known as alpha-gal, and that sugar is foreign to our bodies. Internally, our antibodies start attacking alpha-gal – also found in red meat and milk – and the bite reprograms your entire immune system to continually fight it, meaning your body rejects red meat and some forms of milk. The symptoms aren't immediate, though. It takes time for the sugar to rewire your body, so people don't know for weeks they're developing an allergy. But, by the time they do, they have serious anaphylactic shock and can possibly die. 

The Meat Allergy Was Only Discovered In The 2000s

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University of Virginia researchers first noticed an uptick in strange, unexplained meat allergies in the 1990s. But it wasn't until 2004 when immunologist Thomas Platts-Mills started noticing people who suffered from this strange allergy also had a series of other similar symptoms. He and his team determined the lone star tick – which is also responsible for a sickness called Rocky Mountain spotted fever – was injecting alpha-gal into people. Despite knowing this, researchers are still unsure how the ticks hijack a human's immune system, making it fight against alpha-gal all of the time.

The Tick Population Is On The Rise Thanks To Global Warming

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Photo: uacescomm/flickr/CC-BY-ND 2.0

What's really concerning to researchers, though, is that the lone star tick population is thriving. Mostly found in areas on the East Coast and the Midwest, those ticks are on the rise. Scientists believe that's partly because of global warming. Pruvi Parikh, a certified allergist with the Allergy & Asthma Network told USA Today that as temperatures rise in parts of the northern US, the ticks keep moving upward and repopulating. These ticks typically used to only affect people in the South, but now they're seeing more bites in Upstate New York and parts of the Northeast.