The connection between Lone Star ticks and meat allergies in America first came to light in 2008. At the time, Thomas Platts-Mills and Scott Commins, both allergy specialists at the University of Virginia Health System, were trying to understand why some of their patients had developed a severe allergic reactions to cetuximab, an intravenous cancer-fighting drug. The doctors eventually learned that Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in their patients were reacting with a sugar in the drug called alpha-gal. It was peculiar, since nearly everyone produces these antibodies, but not every patient reacted poorly to the drug.
Commins and Platts-Mills discovered these strange reactions occurred in patients who all hailed from the same place: the southeastern United States. So a lab technician Googled for medical conditions that fit geographically with the allergy they were seeing. Sure enough, they found that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever—a tickborne disease—affected the same areas.