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Data from University Allergy Clinic Shows Red Meat Allergy May Be a Growing Issue

A study presented at the 2018 AAAAI/WAO Joint Congress describes the rise in anaphylaxis caused by alpha-gal allergy in a university allergy clinic.


Orlando, FL – A study at the 2018 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) and World Allergy Organization (WAO) Joint Congress presented a snapshot from a private, university-affiliated allergy clinic with a large increase of anaphylaxis cases caused by alpha-gal, or red meat, allergy.

The dataset included 222 cases of anaphylaxis dating back to 1993 from the clinic. Forty percent of cases had a definitive trigger, 26% of cases had a probable trigger and the cause was unknown in 34% of the cases.

“Interestingly, among cases of anaphylaxis with a definitive cause, the most common trigger was a reaction to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose, better known as alpha-gal. That is the compound that patients with mammalian meat allergy react to after ingesting red meats like beef or pork,” said author Philip L. Lieberman, MD, FAAAAI.

This varies from earlier reports from the clinic, when alpha-gal allergy had not been fully described. In fact, the percentage of cases with an unknown cause dropped from 59% to 34% from the prior report. The scientists believe that the change in percentage could largely be explained by the increase in alpha-gal cases.

“There has been such an influx in anaphylaxis caused by alpha-gal, that the rate of anaphylaxis without a clear cause has dropped 25%,” said Thanai Pongdee, MD, FAAAAI. “The correct diagnosis of anaphylaxis is paramount for patient care, and understanding common causes is vital in this regard.”

The second leading cause was food allergy and the average age of the patients who experienced anaphylaxis was 41 years-old.

To learn more about alpha-gal, anaphylaxis or food allergy, visit aaaai.org. Research presented at the AAAAI/WAO Joint Congress, March 2-5 in Orlando, Florida, is published in an online supplement to The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, an official journal of the AAAAI.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 7,000 members in the United States, Canada and 72 other countries. The AAAAI’s Find an Allergist / Immunologist service is a trusted resource to help you find a specialist close to home.

The World Allergy Organization (WAO) is an international alliance of 97 regional and national allergy, asthma, and immunology societies. Through collaboration with its Member Societies WAO provides a wide range of educational and outreach programs, symposia and lectureships to allergists/immunologists around the world and conducts initiatives related to clinical practice, service provision, and physical training in order to better understand and address the challenges facing allergists/immunologists worldwide.

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