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Jun 22, 2017 08:04 AM EDT

There are many things, such as stress and poor lifestyle, that can wreck havoc on the immune system. But aside from these factors, there's one tiny organism that can render such harm to the immune system as well.

The lone star tick is a very aggressive tick with the characteristic white mark on its back that looks like Texas; hence, the name. Bites from this tick results in a circular rash coupled by feelings of fatigue, fever, headache, and muscle and joint pains.

Aside from these symptoms, lone star ticks are so lethal that they have been the cause of many Americans developing a sudden allergy to meat. Reports and studies have proven that those who got bitten by the tick develop a life-threatening allergy to meat, especially red meat.

Why meat?

Red meat also contains sugar in the form of galactose-alpha-1 or alpha-gal, saccharides that can be found in most mammalian cell membranes, even humans.

A person who develops meat allergy experiences stomach cramping, nausea, difficulty in breathing, and worse, death. There is no known cure for the allergy but symptoms might recede as time goes by.

But what makes people super-sensitive to alpha-gal?

Researchers from the University of Virginia, where the lone star tick is most abundant, found out that 80 percent of patients who reported to have meat allergy were bitten by the lone star tick.

Most surprisingly, those who got bitten by the tick showed a 20 percent increase in alpha-gal antibodies. They also found out that there's something in the tick bite that reprograms the immune system and red-flags the alpha-gal. It also triggers the release of a massive amount of histamines when humans consume red meat.

The researchers are conducting further studies to find out what is it in the tick bite that causes this bomb. They still can't be sure what it is because tick saliva is filled with bioactive compounds as well as bacteria or virus.

Follows immune system, lone star tick, allergy
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