Are you ready to never read “blood meal” the same way again?

Travellin’ John

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

There is now scientific confirmation of the tick-borne meat allergies we first told you about in August. From ABC News:

A bite from the lone star tick, so-called for the white spot on its back, looks innocent enough. But researchers say saliva that sneaks into the wound might trigger a reaction to meat agonizing enough to convert lifelong carnivores into wary vegetarians.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“People will eat beef and then anywhere from three to six hours later start having a reaction; anything from hives to full-blown anaphylactic shock,” said Dr. Scott Commins, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Lone star ticks are an “aggressive” species, but scientists are having a hard time proving a causal relationship between the tick bites and the meat allergies. What they do know: “blood levels of antibodies for alpha-gal, a sugar found in beef, lamb and pork, rise after a single bite from the lone star tick.”

The mammal meat allergies are striking those in southern and central parts of the country. From The Huffington Post:

Rates of the allergy to alpha-gal (short for galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, which is a sugar carbohydrate in red meat) are 32 percent higher in these parts of the U.S., where there is also a higher prevalence of lone-star ticks.

Ticks are now more common in more parts of the country — and year-round. “This year’s mild winter and early spring were a bonanza for tick populations in the eastern United States,” the National Science Foundation reported in September. “Reports of tick-borne disease rose fast.” Moreover, “Identifying health risks in the face of changing climates will be critical in coming years.” Especially as disease-ridden ticks are active and reproducing year-round above 38 degrees. Basically, ticks love our warming planet.

So don’t forget to tuck those pants into your hiking boots this weekend! And forever after!