The meat tick is real in this case

Peo­ple bit­ten by the Lone Star tick could be­come al­ler­gic to red meat

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL - Russell Wanger­sky

The in­ter­net head­lines were omi­nous: a kind of tick con­nected with Texas, the land of ranches, could ac­tu­ally make peo­ple al­ler­gic to red meat.

The sto­ries were brief; peo­ple be­ing bit­ten by the Lone Star tick could get the al­ler­gies, and it’s hap­pen­ing to more and more peo­ple.

But I think it also says some­thing about why there’s still a need for old-school jour­nal­ism.

On the face of it, it’s what the CBC used to call a “Hey, Martha” story — the kind of thing that would make some­one call out to his or her spouse to come and see.

But “Hey, Martha” is ev­ery­where on the In­ter­net, and it’s hard to know if it’s fact, fic­tion or de­lib­er­ate de­cep­tion.

Now, you can find out more about the tick.

There are acres of in­for­ma­tion out there, and if you’re will­ing to take the time and ef­fort, you can track things down right back to the orig­i­nal sci­ence.

But who has the time? That’s the meat tick prob­lem in a nut­shell.

The tick isn’t even from Texas. It’s from the south­east­ern U.S., and it’s spread­ing — or, at least, the al­ler­gies are.

In its own way, it’s sim­ple enough. The Lone Star tick (called that be­cause of a Texas-shaped white spot on its arse) can bite you af­ter shar­ing a meal from a num­ber of dif­fer­ent mam­malian sources, from mice to cattle. Some of the ma­te­rial from pre­vi­ous snacks gets trans­ferred into your blood­stream, and your im­mune sys­tem can de­clare war on one or more of those ma­te­ri­als.

In this case, a sugar-linked pro­tein called galac­tose-al­pha-1,3-galac­tose is ap­par­ently the cul­prit.

Once your body de­vel­ops an in­tol­er­ance for the sac­cha­ride (which goes by the su­per-hero sound­ing han­dle of “al­pha­gal” among re­searchers), you can de­velop al­ler­gic re­ac­tions to a meal of meat that run the gamut from hives to full ana­phy­lac­tic shock.

For some, it’s the end of the car­niv­o­rous life­style for good. There’s no treat­ment or cure. Not ev­ery­one de­vel­ops the al­lergy, but that’s the way al­ler­gies work.

There’s a lot more to the story than a sim­ple head­line that seems, on the face of it, just an­other In­ter­net farce-du-jour.

It is, in its own way, a lit­tle like the head­line treat­ment of the Catholic Church’s de­ci­sion to al­low ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied ma­te­ri­als in the host, but to also not al­low gluten-free host.

If that’s all you read, it sounds like the church and the Pope are be­ing ar­bi­trary again — un­til you ac­tu­ally fol­low up on why. The ar­gu­ment? That with­out gluten, the host doesn’t bind into a dough, so other ad­di­tives have to be used to make it bind prop­erly. It’s not that the church doesn’t want peo­ple to avoid gluten, so much as it is that the church wants to main­tain the dough’s par­tic­u­lar in­tegrity.

(It is a de­ci­sion alone the lines of why Saint Joseph of Cu­per­tino is one of the pa­tron saints of air travel. Born in 1603, he was around a tri­fle be­fore air­craft ex­isted, but since he would spon­ta­neously float into the air “in ec­static prayer,” he seemed like a log­i­cal choice for the gig. Our Lady of Loreto is an­other saint for fliers, be­cause the Vir­gin Mary’s house was sup­pos­edly car­ried by an­gels to Loreto from the Holy Land in 1284. Once again, it’s a form of log­i­cal-ar­gu­ment-within-a-be­lief-sys­tem.)

To get back to jour­nal­ism, though: our job is to find things out — es­pe­cially things read­ers need or want to know — and make them both read­able and ac­cu­rate. Of­ten, there’s more to the story. You just might not al­ways have the time to find it for your­self, un­less you have a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est. Russell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 30 Salt Wire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetele­ - Twit­ter: @ wanger­sky.

There’s a lot more to the story than a sim­ple head­line that seems, on the face of it, just an­other In­ter­net farce-du-jour.

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