CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A sensitivity to red meat caused by tick bites is now being linked to heart disease.

University of Virginia researchers say affected people could be more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes.

Cardiologists and allergists at UVA teamed up to study more than 100 people with plaque buildup in their hearts. Researchers say 26 percent of them also have a sensitivity to red meat.

That red meat sensitivity can be caused by a bite from the lone star tick, which is commonly found in Virginia.

Researchers say right now they have only found an association between heart disease and the tick-caused allergy, but in the future they hope to be able to prove causation.

Doctors say that finding could help them personalize treatments for patients.

“One really important thing to know is don't sound the alarm bells, again, this is a small study, it's associative, it raises for the first time an interesting potential link between inflammation and heart disease but a lot more work needs to be done,” says Coleen McNamara, a cardiologist at UVA.

UVA's cardiology and allergy teams have received a grant from the National Institute of Health to continue their work.
McNamara says their goal is to use that funding over the next few years for more clinical studies to prove a stronger link.