The tiny Lone Star tick can succeed where countless health experts and diet planners have failed – this bug has the power to put people off red meat! The tick isn’t vegetarian itself, but it sure can turn you into one for life.
Scientifically known as Amblyomma americanum, these ticks carry a variety of diseases, but what makes them truly fascinating is their ability to make people allergic to meat. That’s because they carry a substance called alpha-gal (Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose), which is a type of carbohydrate found in non-primate mammals. Now, alpha-gal isn’t present in the human body, but our guts can digest it without negative effects under normal conditions. So when we eat meat that contains alpha-gal, we’re able to handle it without any problems.
But when the stuff enters the bloodstream through the Lone Star’s bite, it’s a totally different ballgame – the human immune system recognizes it as a foreign substance and produces antibodies to protect against it. These antibodies remain in the system, so the next time meat containing alpha-gal is ingested, it can trigger violent allergic reactions.