Does Lone Star Tick Saliva Induce Allergic Response to Red Meat?

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Lone Star Tick
One probable vector for delayed anaphylaxis allergic response to red meat.

The Lone Star tick is not found only in Texas. It gets its name from a single spot on its back. The CDC says the tick’s range includes the eastern, south eastern and south central states.

What’s the Problem?

The Lone Star tick bite can cause a red rash. The rash plus other symptoms may clear up with use of the antibiotic doxycycline. Yet, if treatment is not timely, a chronic problem can develop. Lone Star tick saliva can cause a permanent allergy to the eating of red meat. The Lone Star tick is not alone in this. So-called seed ticks may do the same.

Lone Star Tick Bite Chemistry

Lone Star tick saliva contains galactose-α-1,3-galactose. What is that? Often called alpha gal, it is a molecule made up of two galactose sugar units joined a certain way. What’s surprising is alpha gal has caused some to contract severe allergy responses to eating red meat.Lone Star Tick


Most serious is delayed anaphylaxia. This trait can develop hours after exposure. After an onset of symptoms such as rash or hives, breathing may be greatly restricted. Oddly, persons with certain blood types may be immune to such a response.

Allergic Response

Allergic response involves a specific antibody, Immunoglobulin E (IgE). Even if it is present in very low levels, IgE can produce serious breathing related reactions. Alpha-gal-specific IgE in the blood can attach to mast cells. A mast cell is a cell that contains basophil granules and is often found in connective tissue. If exposure to the allergen is repeated, these cells are triggered release granules that cause allergic response.

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