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Tick bites and red meat allergy

Commins, Scott P.; Platts-Mills, Thomas A.E.

Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology: August 2013 - Volume 13 - Issue 4 - p 354–359
doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3283624560
ANAPHYLAXIS AND INSECT ALLERGY: Edited by Theodore Freeman and Ralf Heine

Purpose of review A novel form of anaphylaxis has been described that is due to IgE antibody (Ab) directed against a mammalian oligosaccharide epitope, galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal). Ongoing work regarding the cause and distribution of this IgE response is reviewed.

Recent findings Our recent work has identified a novel IgE Ab response that has been associated with two distinct forms of anaphylaxis: immediate-onset anaphylaxis during first exposure to intravenous cetuximab and delayed-onset anaphylaxis 3–6 h after ingestion of mammalian food products (e.g. beef and pork). Further studies strongly suggested that tick bites were a cause, if not the only significant cause, of IgE Ab responses to alpha-gal in the United States and internationally.

Summary Large numbers of patients with IgE Ab to alpha-gal continue to be identified in the USA and globally. Clinicians should be aware of this IgE response as the reactions often appear to be idiopathic because of the significant delay between eating mammalian meat and the appearance of symptoms.

aDepartment of Internal Medicine, Division of Allergy and Immunology

bDepartment of Pediatrics, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

Correspondence to Scott P. Commins, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine & Pediatrics, Division of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, University of Virginia Health System, PO Box 801355, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA. Tel: +1 434 924 5917; e-mail:

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