Interview on Alpha-Gal Red Meat Allergy Caused by Tick Bites

in Food Allergy
Published: August 21, 2014

Allergies to alpha-gal, a carbohydrate found in red meat, is a true IgE-mediated allergy and results in delayed allergic reactions to red meat, confirms a new study.

By monitoring 13 patients with reported delayed allergy to beef, lamb or pork, scientists were able to confirm that the reactions are caused by a true IgE-mediated allergy – but it still has some unique characteristics.

Alpha-gal allergies are quite irregular compared to other food allergies in that they tend to be delayed, occur often in adults who weren’t previously allergic, and occur in response to a sugar as opposed to a protein.

And of course, there is also the allergy’s most irregular aspect of all: it is caused by tick bites. It is not currently known exactly why or how this happens, but bites from the Lone Star tick (and other, as of yet unidentified, tick species) appear to directly lead to the development of the allergy. The good news: if tick bites are avoided, the allergy does appear to wane over time, and even disappear.

Following the study’s publication, Dr. Scott Sicherer, allergist and associate editor of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, sat down with Dr. Scott Commins, study author and expert on alpha-gal allergy from the University of Virginia, to discuss the findings and red meat allergy in general.

“The allergic reactions are delayed and can be anything from simple flushing and urticaria to full-blown anaphylaxis,” said Dr. Commins in the interview.

See the AAAAI video below to learn more: