Alpha-gal Syndrome is a condition where a person has been bitten by a tick. The tick passes on a carbohydrate called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (also known as alpha-gal).
This carbohydrate causes an immune reaction to make IgE antibodies. This is an unusual allergic syndrome as it is caused by a carbohydrate and not an allergenic protein.
The ticks most commonly causing this syndrome are found in the USA and Australia, but cases have also been found in Europe, South Africa and Japan.
Alpha-gal Syndrome most frequently causes delayed IgE allergic reactions to the conumption of red meats, this is unlike the classic IgE reactions which are immediate on ingestion.
People suffering from Alpha-gal Syndrome may react to many types of mammalian and bird meats containing serum albumin. This may cause severe delayed IgE reactions. This includes the consumption of chicken, pork and beef.
Alpha-gal Syndrome has also been known to cause immediate anaphylactic reactions to tick bites and reactions to the drug cetuximab (which is a targeted cancer drug, used most often in bowel cancer treatment).
There have also been case studies of people who have suffered allergic reactions due to Alpha-gal Syndrome from xenotransplantation. This is where cells or tissue from an animal is used to repair cell or tissue damage in a human. Cells most commonly used are from pigs.