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Q&A: Allergist Scott Commins on the dangers of the lone star tick

Chuck Lubelczyk, a vector ecologist for Maine Medical Center Research Institute, displays a vial of live lone star ticks.
Live lone star ticks in a vial. Photo: Portland Press Herald via Getty

Ticks are associated with plenty of diseases, from ehrlichiosis to Lyme disease. But perhaps the most relevant tick-borne illness this bug season is one carried by lone star ticks, whose saliva carries a protein that creates an allergy to red meat.

What's new: Scott Commins, an Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at UNC Chapel Hill saw his first case of tick-related alpha-gal allergies in 2007, and documented two dozen cases in 2009. That number has since grown to more than 5,000. Now, he's working to develop a vaccine to cure the allergy.