Lone Star tick bite sends Va. man to hospital after steak dinner

Posted at 6:40 PM, Jun 15, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-15 18:40:06-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - There have been multiple cases reported in Central Virginia of severe reactions to meat allergies developed only after a certain bug takes a bite of the person affected.

The Lone Star tick, one of the most prevalent species of ticks in Virginia, has been linked to certain cases of allergic reactions to red meat. 

Dr. Susan Wolver at VCU Medical Center has seen such a case first hand, and looked deeper into research of what causes this disease.  

Dr. Wolver says antibodies present in the Lone Star tick's saliva develop in some people after they are bitten and then react to a carbohydrate also found in red meat.

“When somebody who has high levels of antibodies eats the beef, they could possibly have a reaction,” says Dr. Wolver.

Typically, meat allergy symptoms are almost immediate.  In cases involving the lone star tick, the reaction happens three to six hours after the person is exposed.

"It's actually paradigm shifting on very many levels,” says Dr. Wolver.

So how prevalent is the lone star tick in Virginia?

“The Lone Star tick is hands down, by far, the most common tick you'll get bitten by,” says Dr. David Gaines, an entomologist for the Virginia Department of Health.

Dr. Gaines says the population of Lone Star ticks has been on the rise up and down the east coast, where they find plenty of shaded, wooded area in which they like to live.

“But I think the story will unfold in the future what's going to happen to these people.  Will it be life long that they'll have to avoid it?  Will there be some type of desensitization,” says Dr. Wolver.

Dr. Wolver and her colleagues are publishing an article on this disease in the Journal of Internal Medicine.  She says research on the allergy is only in its infancy.