As if bloodsucking ticks weren't creepy enough, now it turns out they can seriously put you off your red meat, reports the Wall Street Journal. The bizarre connection between the bite of a Lone Star tick and red-meat allergies was first identified in 2007 in Virginia, and has been spreading in recent years as far as Massachusetts and New York. Early sufferers dealt with skeptical reactions, because the symptoms—which can include vomiting, hives, and even anaphylaxis—can take weeks or months to first occur after the tick bite, and often occur hours after eating beef, pork, or lamb.
"[The doctors] said, 'There's no such thing as delayed anaphylaxis,'" recalls one sufferer. "Nobody had ever heard of it." The side effect was discovered by accident, while an allergy specialist was researching cancer patients who are allergic to a particular drug. That drug contains a sugar also found in mammalian meat, and only cancer patients from "tick-belt" states were allergic to it. Researchers haven't definitively proven the connection—which may have existed for decades unnoticed—but the evidence they're collecting is growing as the Lone Star tick population expands. "I dream about eating steak," says one sufferer. "But I wouldn't take the risk." (Read more red meat stories.)