It sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie: a tick has been said to be able to turn people vegan or vegetarian, because it makes them allergic to animal products.
- Nasty Side Effects
Known as the 'Lone Star Tick', this tiny creature gives people an allergic reaction that can be severe - it includes breathing problems, lower blood pressure, hives and/or anaphylactic shock. What is weird is that these problems only occur after the person who was bitten has consumed meat or dairy products. The reactions can be taken away with the use of epinephrine and antihistamines.
- How it Occurs
So how does a tick make you vegan? What happens is that the tick punctures human skin and then injects a kind of sugar into the person’s bloodstream. This sugar is called alpha-gal and it can be found in various animal products, such as some dairy items and meat. When people ingest it, the sugar often doesn’t cause health problems. However, get bitten by the tick and you can end up having allergic reactions to pork, red meat, and poultry products that contain by-products of meat.
- Forced Veganism
What causes the reaction in people when the tick bites them is that their immune system produces antibodies that are actually triggered when a person eats the animal products. This means that people have to stay away from those products or else risk having allergic reactions to them continuously. Doctors still are unsure about whether or not the allergy can be permanent, however. Although some patients have experienced a decline in antibodies over time, some others make sure they carry epinephrine at all times in case they consume animal products. Of course others have chosen to avoid eating animal products altogether after having experienced such severe reactions.
*Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.