Invited Commentary: Alpha-Gal Allergy: Tip of the Iceberg to a Pivotal Immune Response

Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2016 Sep;16(9):61. doi: 10.1007/s11882-016-0641-6.


The syndrome of delayed allergic reactions to the carbohydrate galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose ("alpha-gal") has become increasingly recognized in allergy and immunology clinics regionally throughout the southeastern USA. Due to the increasing awareness of this unique food allergy, cases have been identified in the northeastern and central USA as well as in Central and South America, Europe, Asia, Scandinavia, and Australia. Clinically, alpha-gal allergy is characterized by reactions to non-primate mammalian meat (e.g., beef, pork, lamb) that occur 3-6 h following exposure. The IgE response to alpha-gal is thought to develop after tick bites and can result in the loss of tolerance to foods that have been safely consumed for years. Although the initial description of alpha-gal allergy in 2009 was limited to red meat, this epitope is now identified in an expanded number of products, medications and foods-both labeled and unlabeled. Moreover, we are beginning to recognize that alpha-gal food allergy is the tip of the iceberg for this immune response.

Keywords: Alpha-gal; Anti-Gal; Delayed anaphylaxis; IgE; Red meat allergy; Tick bite and allergy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Delayed
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • alpha-Galactosidase / adverse effects*


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • GLA protein, human
  • alpha-Galactosidase