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A single bite from this tick can result in a lifetime meat allergy

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An aggressive type of tick detected in Indiana is puzzling scientists.

People who receive its bite are developing a strange allergy they’ve never had before. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lone star tick is a concern but not because it causes Lyme disease. 

A single bite from this critter can result in a severe allergy to red meat. A person’s reaction can be mild or life-threatening by causing anaphylactic shock, and the allergy can last a lifetime. 

News 8 spoke with Dr. Cait Hill, an associate professor of entomology at Purdue University, who explains why this happens. 

“It’s something called alpha-gal syndrome,” Hill said, “and we think it is connected to possibly being bitten by the lone star tick, and the thinking is if you get bitten by this tick, you might then develop an allergic response to allergens associated with red meat.”

The bite, Hill says, transmits a sugar molecule called alpha-gal into a person’s body making them unable to properly digest foods including beef, lamb and pork. Common side effects include hives or an itchy rash, nausea or vomiting, and stomach pain, to name a few.  

Hill goes on to say alpha-gal syndrome involves a relatively new area of research. Scientists are still struggling to understand it, and, while there have been cases of it detected in Indiana, she wants Hoosiers to know the condition is rare.