The discovery of a new tick is making meat-lovers nervous. A bite from what's known as the Lone Star tick will make carnivores suddenly allergic to red meat consumption.
That's what happened to sophomore student Peter Coughlin when he woke up in the middle of the night covered in hives and felt body chills and strong fevers.
After keeping a dedicated food journal, he reached the conclusion that his violent episodes, including vomiting, was the result of eating pork. "I essentially spent a week proving my point," Coughlin says. "I'd eat a bunch of red meat, and go through a series of pretty severe reactions."
Doctors had difficulty in diagnosing his ailment due to delayed symptoms, but Coughlin took it upon himself to do some research.
He found his symptoms matched reports of the alpha-gal allergy, where much of the study for the condition took place in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the University of Virginia where he frequently hiked. It was evident he was bit by a Lone Star.
A report described the alpha-gal allergy as atypical from a standard hay-fever allergy. It was "a severe, delayed-reaction immune response, which means it hits hours after someone who suffers from the allergy eats meat," wrote Zoya Teirstein for the Grist.
The Lone Star epidemic is on the rise and spreading to other parts of the country as nasty ticks are currently in the process of coming out of hibernation.
The CDC said seven new tick-borne infections have been recorded since 2004, and scientists are faulting climate change.
Gary Hickling, the director of the University of Tennessee's Center for Wildlife Health, is terrified at the rate of new discoveries made every year.
The Lone Star population is expanding beyond the zones they're known to originate from.
When we start getting these warm seasons, high rainfall kind of years, that probably means that those 2,000 baby ticks do a lot better.
With global warming reducing the duration of colder climate allowing for the ticks to hibernate, there's more of an opportunity for infection.
All it takes is one bite for carnivores to develop a meat allergy that can last anywhere from a few months to a an entire lifetime.
The Grist outlined the alpha-gal's effect on the body according to what scientists believe happens after human's are bit by a Lone Star.
Alpha-gal is a sugar molecule found in nearly all mammals, except humans and a few other primates. A lone star carrying alpha-gal (or an alpha-gal-like substance) bites a person and spreads it to their blood through the tick's saliva. Then, the molecule essentially rewires the body's immune system, prompting it to produce an overload of alpha-gal antibodies.
Is it a conspiracy unleashed by vegans?
He's not going down without a fight. Nothing comes between this guy and his steak.
The lingering antibodies vary from person to person but it's possible that the alpha-gal can retreat entirely.
Two years after Peter Coughlin suffered alpha-gal symptoms, he's able to eat red meat again, though he arms himself with Benadryl as a precaution.