Lone Star Tick Bite Causes Allergy to Red Meat

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Lone Star
Courtesy of Elizabeth Nicodemus (Flickr CC0)

The Lone Star ticks are commonly found in wooded areas with heavy undergrowth. They can also be discovered in resting places for animals. The tick larvae do not carry any illnesses. However, young and adult ticks can spread germs that cause different diseases. A bite from these ticks is linked with people developing an allergy to red meat (Alpha-gal). Other diseases that are transmitted by these species are Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis, ‘Stari’ borreliosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

The human species does not have Alpha-gal in the body. Meaning the immune system sees the substance as foreign and creates a reaction, including the creation of antibodies.

The allergy to red meat can cause hives, rash, swelling, itching, headaches, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, an individual can also suffer from anaphylaxis, which is a possibly fatal reaction.

Identifying Lone Star Ticks

The adult tick species are more active from April to late August. They can be found searching for bigger animals like deer, coyotes, dogs, cattle, and humans in tall grass, and shady areas. Also, they can be found on the edges of twigs and low branches.

Female Lone Star ticks have a white dot in the middle of their brown bodies. Males have streaks or spots of white tint on the outer parts of their bodies. Also, the female ticks need 7-10 days if not longer to enlarge and have the ability to lay 2,500-3,000 eggs. Nymph stages (youth) normally are searching lower and connect to the hosts from shin to shoe level. They crawl very quickly. By the time the host notices them, they could be up to hip level.

Larvae normally latch to the host in hundreds. An effective way to remove them quickly prior to attaching would be using sticky tape.

Lone Star
Courtesy of John Brandauer (Flickr CC0)

People are uncertain about whether the Lone Star transmits Lyme disease. Medical professionals are also unsure. Individuals that are bitten by a Lone Star tick will sometimes get a rash that is circular. It appears similar to an early Lyme disease rash. What causes the rash is currently unknown. However, research shows that the rash does not seem to be caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. Which is the bacterium that creates Lyme disease.

STARI Illness and Lone Star Ticks

The condition has been called southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). It may occasionally go alongside fever, muscle pain, headache, and fatigue. Studies show that in some cases of the illness, oral antibiotic treatment (doxycycline) has resolved the symptoms. However, it is unknown if the medication helps speed up the recovery process.

STARI has not been connected with chronic symptoms, arthritis, or neurologic disease. But, experts hypothesized that the illness was developed by the spiral twisted bacterium, Borrelia Lonestari. However, more studies did not support the thought. It is still unknown what causes STARI.

The Lone Star tick stemmed in the southern states and has spread out to northern and western states covering a majority of Eastern U.S. Ticks survive in warmer climates in the winter months and have a longer range of expansion time.

Written by Marrissa Kay


CDC: STARI or Lyme?
Anchorage Daily News: The tick that makes people allergic to red meat spreads north and west in U.S.; by Kevin Ambrose
The University of Rhode Island: Lone Star Tick

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Elizabeth Nicodemus’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of John Brandauer’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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