Tag Archives: Lone Star tick

 Image result for red meat, wikipedia Red meat allergies from a lone star tick bite? I first read about this a few years ago in Science Daily and it seemed pretty incredible - eat some red meat (beef, pork, or venison) and a few hours later have severe allergy symptoms such as itching, hives, swelling, shortness of breath, vomiting, and diarrhea. And the allergy starts after a person is bitten by a lone star tick.

A few years ago the red meat allergy seemed to occur only in the southeastern United States. But recently the severe red meat allergies are occurring in new places (such as Minnesota and Long island, NY) - so it appears that either the area where this tick lives is spreading or other species of ticks are also now causing this allergy. By the way, once a person has this allergy there is no cure, vaccine, or treatment other than avoiding red meat, treating the allergy symptoms, and carrying an EpiPen (just in case). It is also referred to as Alpha-Gal allergy syndrome because the allergy is to the sugar molecule commonly called alpha-gal which is found in red meat and some medications (such as the cancer drug cetuximab). From Wired:

OH, LOVELY: THE TICK THAT GIVES PEOPLE MEAT ALLERGIES IS SPREADING

First comes the unscratchable itching, and the angry blossoming of hives. Then stomach cramping, and—for the unluckiest few—difficulty breathing, passing out, and even death. In the last decade and a half, thousands of previously protein-loving Americans have developed a dangerous allergy to meat. And they all have one thing in common: the lone star tick.

Red meat, you might be surprised to know, isn’t totally sugar-free. It contains a few protein-linked saccharides, including one called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or alpha-gal, for short. More and more people are learning this the hard way, when they suddenly develop a life-threatening allergy to that pesky sugar molecule after a tick bite.

Yep, one bite from the lone star tick—which gets its name from the Texas-shaped splash of white on its back—is enough to reprogram your immune system to forever reject even the smallest nibble of perfectly crisped bacon. For years, physicians and researchers only reported the allergy in places the lone star tick calls home, namely the southeastern United States. But recently it’s started to spread. The newest hot spots? Duluth, Minnesota, Hanover, New Hampshire, and the eastern tip of Long Island, where at least 100 cases have been reported in the last year. Scientists are racing to trace its spread, to understand if the lone star tick is expanding into new territories, or if other species of ticks are now causing the allergy.

Over the next few years Platts-Mills and his colleague Scott Commins screened more meat allergy patients and discovered that 80 percent reported being bitten by a tick.What’s more, they showed that tick bites led to a 20-fold increase in alpha-gal antibodies. Since ethics standards prevented them from attaching ticks to randomized groups of patients, this data was the best they could do to guess how meat allergy arises. Something in the tick’s saliva hijacks humans’ immune systems, red-flagging alpha-gal, and triggering the massive release of histamines whenever red meat is consumed.Researchers are still trying to find what that something is. 

Whatever it is, allergy researchers will be paying attention. Because, as far as anyone can tell, alpha-gal syndrome seems to be the only allergy that affects all people, regardless of genetic makeup. “There’s something really special about this tick,” says Jeff Wilson, an asthma, allergy, and immunology fellow in Platts-Mills’ group. Usually a mix of genes and environmental factors combine to create allergies. But when it comes to the lone star tick it doesn’t matter if you’re predisposed or not. “Just a few bites and you can render anyone really, really allergic,” he says.

 Lone star tick Credit: CDC Public Image Library

The good news is that not every tick is infected, but the bad news is that the CDC says that there are 14 known tick-borne diseases in the United States, and possibly 15 (if newly discovered Bourbon virus is included). Lyme disease is the most common, but people can be infected with more than one tick-borne illness simultaneously.  Three new diseases to watch for: Borrelia miyamotoi (bacteria carried by deer ticks), Heartland virus (carried by Lone Star Tick), and Bourbon virus. From Medical Xpress;

Beyond Lyme, new illnesses, more reason to watch for ticks

Lyme disease makes the headlines but there are plenty of additional reasons to avoid tick bites. New research highlights the latest in a growing list of tick-borne threats—a distant relative of Lyme that's easy to confuse with other illnesses.Monday's study suggests a kind of bacteria with an unwieldy name—Borrelia miyamotoi—should be on the radar when people in Lyme-endemic areas get otherwise unexplained summertime fevers. It's one of several recently discovered diseases linked to ticks in different parts of the country, a reminder to get tick-savvy no matter where you live.

The first U.S. case was reported in 2013 in New Jersey, an 80-year-old cancer survivor who over four months became increasingly confused, had difficulty walking and lost 30 pounds. Doctors found spiral-shaped bacteria in her spinal fluid that looked like Lyme but caused a relapsing fever more closely related to some other tick-borne illnesses. While treatable by antibiotics—the woman recovered—doctors know little about B. miyamotoi.

Researchers with Imugen Inc., a Massachusetts testing lab, tested blood samples from patients in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York whose doctors suspected tick-borne illnesses and used that lab. During the 2013 and 2014 tick seasons the lab found 97 cases of the new infection. That's roughly 1 percent of samples tested and close to the lab's detection of a better-known tick disease named anaplasmosis. ...Researchers then analyzed medical records from 51 of those patients, and found symptoms typically include a high fever, severe headache, chills and blood abnormalities—decreases in infection-fighting and blood-clotting cells

The bacterium is carried by deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks, which also can spread Lyme and two other illnesses, babesiosis and anaplasmosis.

Two new tick-borne viruses were recently discovered in the Midwest, and neither has a specific treatment.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed nine cases of Heartland virus, and one death, with other reports under investigation, said CDC entomologist Roger Nasci. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, diarrhea and low blood counts. Identified in Missouri, the virus also was reported in Tennessee and Oklahoma, although the Lone Star tick that spreads it lives around the East and Southeast.

Then there's the Bourbon virus, with similar symptoms, discovered last year after the death of a Kansas man and named for his home county. Another patient, in Oklahoma, recovered. The Kansas man had found an embedded tick days before getting sick, and CDC researchers are searching for the culprit species.

The CDC counts 14 illnesses linked to specific U.S. tick species, not including the Bourbon virus still being studied. Lyme is the most common, with about 30,000 cases reported each year, although CDC has estimated that the true number could be 10 times higher. It's too early to know how widespread the newly discovered illnesses are. But people can be infected with more than one tick-borne illness simultaneously, complicating care.

Adult deer tick.jpg Deer tick.            Amblyomma americanum tick.jpgLone Star Tick,  From Wikipedia.