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Ever wanted to be a vegetarian but just never could stick to the diet? Was it just too difficult to give up the hamburgers and hot dogs? Turns out, there was really no will power needed. All you needed to do was be bitten by this weird - and frighteningly common - insect.
An insect bite that turns people into vegetarians? Meet the Lone Star tick.
Ticks can carry disease, such as Lyme disease. They are not good news for anyone. But this Lone Star tick carries a specific kind of sugar called "Alpha gal."
The Alpha gal sugar is not a naturally occurring sugar found in the human body, but it is found in all red meat, such as beef, and in pork and some dairy products.
When a human is bitten by a Lone Star tick, the tick injects the sugar into the victim. The human immune system reacts by building antibodies against the elements injected in the bite, including the Alpha gal sugar.
From then on, an allergic reaction occurs when the tick bite victim eats meat. Because of this, the victims of the Lone Star tick are forced into a life as a vegetarian.
Lone Star ticks have expanded their territory, originally limited to the southern United States, to now include as far north as Maine. This spread is mostly due to their hitching rides on the skin of white tail deer.
Taking steps to avoid tick bites is the only defense against this forced dietary change to vegetarianism. While that's not the cruelest twist of fate that a person could face, it could be a real problem to a meat and potatoes kind of guy.