Alpha-gal Syndrome

Alpha-gal syndrome is an unusual allergy with an unusual history - Sarah Zhang

Alpha-gal Syndrome
Alpha-gal Syndrome

image by: Alpha-gal Information

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Her Rash Wouldn’t Go Away, and the Itch Was Ruining Her Life

Alpha-gal syndrome was first recognized in the early years of the 21st century when a physician noticed that allergic reactions to a chemotherapeutic drug containing galactose-α-1,3-galactose were much more common in the Southeast than in the rest of the country. That suggested an environmental trigger. Then in 2009, a group of allergy specialists at the University of Virginia noticed that some of their patients developed symptoms ranging from hives to anaphylaxis when they were exposed to alpha gal in mammalian meat. Two years later, the same group linked that allergy to bites from the lone star tick.

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 Her Rash Wouldn’t Go Away, and the Itch Was Ruining Her Life

Kahwash had seen this allergy in a handful of his patients and knew it was a strange one. Most allergies are triggered by proteins, but this was a reaction to galactose-α-1,3-galactose (known as alpha-gal for short), a sugar. And the reaction to the allergen took hours, not minutes, to appear. Strangest of all, this allergy is triggered by a tick bite.

Alpha-gal Information

The Alpha-gal Information website is one component of the Alpha-gal Syndrome Awareness Campaign, an effort to raise both the general public’s and healthcare providers’ awareness about AGS.


Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) (also called alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, or tick bite meat allergy) is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. AGS is not caused by an infection. AGS symptoms occur after people eat red meat or are exposed to other products containing alpha-gal.

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