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Wednesday Watercooler


Tonight’s musical selection is Jimmy Fallon, Miley Cyrus, and the Roots singing, “We Can’t Stop.”

Lone Star Tick closeup

“Hope you like tofu!”

Have you heard about the Lone Star Tick? Apparently, its bite can occasionally cause severe allergies to any animal products. Al-Jazeera America reports:

It was a just a few pieces she sneaked off a pot roast that sent Chris Richey of Millersburg, Mo., to the hospital. She was covered in hives, her hands and arms ‘fire truck’ red, itching so badly she was scratching the skin off.

‘This allergy is so weird,’ she said. ‘It’s turned my life upside down.’

Doctors had misdiagnosed her early reactions as a stomach virus or the flu, but recent research has validated what her own research had already uncovered: Richey is living with an allergy to red meat, likely brought on by a tick bite she suffered barely a year ago.

She is one of what researchers estimate could be tens of thousands of people who have developed an allergy to alpha-gal, a sugar found naturally in mammals. Researchers believe the allergy is linked to bites from the lone star tick, a species named after its native range of Texas and the single white spot on its back. After being bitten, some victims carry a type of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody that, in turn, causes the allergic reaction to alpha-gal.

Patients exhibited reactions from eating beef, pork, venison, lamb — there was even a case of a reaction to squirrel meat reported at the University of Virginia clinic. Other products that come from mammals can trigger reactions as well.

Richey has to have her medicine custom made because some pill casings contain gelatin, which comes from cows or pigs. Dairy is also out of the picture for her, since alpha-gal can show up in milk. She knows of another victim who had to cut out her favorite raspberry-filled pastries because the artificial flavoring is made with castoreum, a chemical that comes from the anal scent glands of the North American beaver.

What’s on your mind tonight? The Watercooler is an open conversation.

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Public domain photo by the Centers for Disease Control.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and