The Lone Star tick is called that because it was found in Texas -and throughout the South. This insect’s bite can cause a strange reaction: an allergic reaction to red meat, such as beef, pork, venison, or rabbit. And it’s spreading- Lone Star ticks have been found all the way up the eastern seaboard of the U.S. One allergist on Long Island has seen almost 200 cases of reactions to meat caused by the tick.
The bugs harbor a sugar that humans don't have, called alpha-gal. The sugar is also found in red meat — beef, pork, venison, rabbit — and some dairy products. It's usually fine when people encounter it through food that gets digested.
But a tick bite triggers an immune system response, and in that high-alert state, the body perceives the sugar the tick transmitted to the victim's bloodstream and skin as a foreign substance, and makes antibodies to it. That sets the stage for an allergic reaction the next time the person eats red meat and encounters the sugar.