A tiny little tick is turning some meat lovers into vegetarians. It may sound like something out of a science fiction film, but the strange occurrence has been documented across the United States, with more and more cases popping up on Long Island as the arachnid, known as the Lone Star tick, makes its way around the area. While the bug’s bite is harmless to some, it’s causing others to become allergic to certain types of meat and meat byproducts, forcing them to swear off of some of their favorite foods.

Dr. Erin McGintee, a Long Island allergy doctor who spoke to NBC New York, says she’s seen some 200 cases of the Lone Star tick’s vegetarian-making bites. After being bitten, subjects report swollen skin, itching, and difficulty breathing – but only after eating beef and other red meat products.

The reaction is caused by a sugar found in the ticks called alpha-gal that is not found in humans. “We believe the tick has this actual allergen lining its GI tract so when it bites an individual, a small amount of the allergen is introduced into the [human’s] bloodstream,” explains McGintee.

In some individuals, even meat byproducts caused a reaction. One man says he couldn’t breathe after eating a Twinkie, which may have contained beef fat, as stated on the wrapper.

One upside to the Lone Star tick’s bite, aside from possibly forcing you into a healthier diet, is that you can’t get Lyme disease from a one.

via NBC New York

Screengrabs from NBC New York video