As if high cholesterol, heart disease and the potential for Mad Cow aren’t bad enough, now red meat lovers have another threat to contend with — an allergic reaction to beef potentially triggered by a bite from the common lone star tick.

Researchers at the University of Virginia say that 90 percent of the people they’ve identified with meat allergies have a history of tick bites, but they’re unsure how the tiny insects are passing the allergy along.

Symptoms of the allergy can range from mild to severe. “People will eat beef and then anywhere from three to six hours later start having a reaction; anything from hives to full-blown anaphylactic shock,” said Dr. Scott Commins, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Commins said cases of sudden onset meat allergies have recently been popping up along the East Coast and into the Southeastern states. He’s already seen 400 examples so far.

And while Commins said a link between ticks and the allergy are “hard to prove,” a search is currently ongoing for the mechanism which triggers the reaction. “It’s complicated, no doubt,” he said. “But we think it’s something in the [ticks'] saliva.”

[CNN]