Can Ticks Make You Allergic to Red Meat?

March 7, 2014 2:23 AM

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A few years ago, Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, the director of the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s allergy division, conducted an informal experiment. He spent five hours hiking and bushwhacking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, near his home in Charlottesville, Virginia. Afterward, his feet itched. When he pulled off his shoes and socks, the skin around his ankles was rough and pimpled. He suspected that he had stumbled into a nest of lone-star ticks, the most abundant species of tick in the southeastern United States, named for a distinctive, Texas-shaped white splotch that forms on the backs of adult females. “There were ticks all over the house,” he told me. “Luckily, my wife was not home.”

Adult lone-star ticks can carry the pathogens that cause several diseases: Rocky Mountain spotted fever; Southern tick-assocated rash illness, which manifests in Lyme-like symptoms; and ehrlichiosis, a cluster of related bacterial illnesses. (Michael Specter wrote about tick-borne disease in the mag...

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