Tick Bites Causing Weird New Meat Allergies
By Kurtis Bright
Victims In Australia and U.S.
It seems that the ticks are trying to tell us something: stop eating meat.
The message has come in loud and clear for people who have developed a sudden-onset allergy to red meat, the cause of which an Australian doctor has linked to tick bites.
Hey, if we won’t change our greenhouse gas-spewing, environmentally destructive, unhealthy, drug and antibiotic-laden, disease-spawning and unnecessarily cruel meat production on our own, maybe it’s up to the insects to tell us about it.
This extremely strange occurrence has first came to light around 2007, Australian doctor Dr. Sheryl van Nunen first took note of a link between people who had suddenly developed an allergy to red meat and tick bites they had earlier gotten.
That’s a pretty weird, pretty random connection, but Dr. Van Nunen, who specializes in clinical immunology in Sydney, says she first suspected a link long before she had proof.
The condition has been described as “Tick-induced mammalian meat allergy,” and it has also emerged in Europe, Asia, Africa and Central America.
However it has been most widely observed in the U.S. and Australia. Is that because of the long traditions there of overconsumption of meat? It’s too early to tell, but we do know that people who live in tick-endemic areas are being warned that they could suffer anaphylactic shock as a result of eating red meat, even months following a tick bite.
Most tick bites cause little more than an annoyance--there is of course the “ick” factor perhaps, but that is often the worst that it gets.
However, the immune systems of some people react badly to proteins in the parasite’s saliva and suddenly develop an intolerance to red meat. A few even emerge on the other side of a tick bite with allergies to cattle products like dairy and gelatin.
In a Guardian interview, Dr. Van Nunen said that while she had long suspected a link, it was only in 2007 that she was first able to conclusively make the connection between tick bites and meat allergies. Even stranger, it seems to be on the increase: these days Dr. Van Nunen says she diagnoses one or two new cases each week.
And the reaction to the meat allergy is no laughing matter: it can involve anaphylaxis, so frightening that many people who acquire the disease stay away from not only red meat, but also poultry and fish as well. just to be on the safe side. One beleaguered Australian woman was struck by anaphylaxis not once, but twice.
Of course she admits that she didn’t take the diagnosis seriously.
A rash encircling the area of a tick bite in 2010 for Jana Pearce, and soon she suffered anaphylactic shock when she ate meat a short time later, despite never having suffered from any kind of allergies previously.
“I’d never taken an antihistamine before in my life,” Pearce said in a Guardian interview. “I thought people who took antihistamines were wimps.”
However when she decided to give meat another go the following year, she found herself hospitalized after having been revived by defibrillation.
Although people suffering from the allergy may not experience a reaction every time they eat meat, they are nonetheless often advised to abstain from dining out, as food preparation areas for fish, chicken and red meat are often cross-contaminated.
For Pearce, the threat of another anaphylactic shock is too fearsome for her to ever even consider eating red meat again.
Although that might be the best thing that ever happened to her: with all we are learning about how red meat affects us and increases our chances of getting various types of cancer, maybe this weird tick-borne disease should be viewed as a blessing rather than a curse.