Tag: ticks

BiologyFoodScience

Barbecue season ticks by…

Here in the northern hemisphere, summer officially started this past Thursday. For some people (particularly my kids), the last day of school is the date that gets circled on the calendar to represent the start of summer. And some Americans consider Memorial Day weekend the unofficial start of summertime.

But here at Lamprey Global Headquarters (temporary motto: “We suck everything interesting out of the internet“), summer unofficially starts the very day that evening temperatures allow for the ceremonial grilling of the meats without freezing my delicate bits. Burgers, brats, hot dogs, BBQ chicken, the savory deliciousness of a gigantic slow-cooked sous vide ribeye that crusts up over raging hot coals. All of it in its delicious, meaty goodness. Often in the summer, it’s too hot to cook inside, and it’s just too damn nice to not cook outside. Grilling meats is a summertime tradition dating back to early neanderthal man standing around the fire, arguing about the pros and cons of the designated hitter rule while mammoth steaks roast on the coals (ed. note: Citation needed, but where the f*** am I going to get a neanderthal to ask??).

However, in addition to the threats of eating underdone poultry, disease-ridden mosquitoes, and murderous grill scrapers, there’s a new menace to natural born grillers everywhere. There’s a species of tick in the US called the Lone Star tick and its bite carries with it a VERY unfortunate side effect. When bitten, some people develop an acute allergy to red meat, called alpha-gal allergy…which, contrary to its name is not sneezing a lot when encountering a really cool girl.  According to NPR’s The Salt, cases of alpha-gal allergies have increased exponentially over the past decade, with only a few dozen cases reported in 2007 and 2008 compared to over 5,000 known cases in the US today.

As its name suggests, the Lone Star tick originated in Texas, but its range has expanded annually to include most of the northeastern and central US:

tick range

Picture courtesy US Center for Disease Control and Prevention

There is currently no treatment or preventative for alpha-gel allergies, aside from not being bitten in the first place. Approximately ten to fifteen percent of all sufferers get the double whammy of also becoming allergic to dairy as well, which just goes to show that, yes – it can always get worse. However, some patients have reported that the allergy symptoms abated and people ‘outgrew’ their allergy after a period of time and not being chewed on by hideous spider-crabby things anymore. So there’s that to look forward to. Now we just need to breed a species of insect whose bite improves liver function and reduces the impact of these post-cookout hangovers.