The suggestion that red meat allergies could be caused by a bite from this particular tick was actually made in an article by Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, US, published in February this year.
The Medical Center’s Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program (ASAP) clinic had been seeing increasing cases of patients with allergies to the alpha-gal sugar, present in red meat.
Robert Valet, assistant professor of medicine, said: "It is not completely understood exactly how the allergy starts. The thought is that the tick has the alpha-gal sugar in its gut and introduces it as part of the allergic bite and that causes the production of the allergy antibody that then cross-reacts to the meat."
Patients have suffered severe reactions, such as hives and swelling, as well as broader symptoms of anaphylaxis, including trouble breathing. They can also go into delayed anaphylactic shock, four to six hours after eating meat, so the cause of the reaction isn’t always obvious.
Those who have developed the allergy can still eat poultry, but red meats will cause a reaction.
"It certainly is a big disruption for a lot of people’s lives. Things like your classic barbecue really becomes off-limits," added Valet.