Right now, the only thing cool about the Lone Star Tick is the name. The tick species, which gets its name from the single, white star-shaped splotch on its back, is making news for ruining barbecues across the country. Getting bit by a Lone Star Tick can result in a permanent immune system alteration, making said person allergic to meat.
You read that correctly: one bite from the Lone Star Tick, and you could be allergic to meat for the rest of your life.
“There’s something really special about this tick,” asthma, allergy, and immunology researcher Jeff Wilson told Wired. “Just a few bites and you can render anyone really, really allergic.”
In the past, allergy reports came mainly from the tick species’ native region in the Southeastern part of the US. Recently, reports have been popping up in other states, as far north as Minnesota. In an effort to learn more, researchers are trying to collect blood samples from every new case.
According to doctors at the Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program, “Treatment includes strict avoidance of cow, pork and lamb, and some patients may also need to avoid mammalian organs such as kidney or liver, gelatins, and possibly even dairy milk depending on the patient.” As of now, doctors and scientists haven’t found a cure. Once the allergy develops, your only option is to avoid red meat.
Ticks aren’t picky about who they bite, and researchers still aren’t certain what compound in the ticks’ saliva triggers the allergy. With no cure, the Lone Star Tick is worse for grilling than the guy who forgot to bring the buns.
The only pro-tip scientists have: don’t get bit.