IRP scientists link cases of unexplained anaphylaxis to red meat allergy
Tick bites likely lead to the unusual, misdiagnosed allergy.
While rare, some people experience recurrent episodes of anaphylaxis — a life-threatening allergic reaction that causes symptoms such as the constriction of airways and a dangerous drop in blood pressure — for which the triggers are never identified. Recently, researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, found that some patients’ seemingly inexplicable anaphylaxis was actually caused by an uncommon allergy to a molecule found naturally in red meat. They note that the allergy, which is linked to a history of a specific type of tick bite, may be difficult for patients and health care teams to identify.
As the researchers describe in their article published in Allergy, six of the 70 study participants evaluated for unexplained frequent anaphylaxis tested positive for an allergy to galactose-α-1,3-galactose, or alpha-gal, a sugar molecule found in beef, pork, lamb and other red meats. The six adult male participants all had IgE antibodies — immune proteins associated with allergy — to alpha-gal in their blood. After implementing diets free of red meat, none of them experienced anaphylaxis in the 18 months to 3 years during which they were followed.
This page was last updated on Friday, January 21, 2022