German-Luxembourg

New test detects a meat allergy more clearly

The bite into a juicy steak – for many people the epitome of a delicious meal, for some, however, the meat consumption can be a health horror trip. The so-called alpha-gal syndrome describes an allergic reaction that occurs two to six hours after eating red meat. Not much is known about the causes of this puzzling allergy. Researchers report, however, that the meat allergy develops mainly after strong inflammatory reactions due to a tick bite. A German-Luxembourg research team recently developed a test to diagnose alpha-gal syndrome.

 

Those who suffer from alpha-gal syndrome develop after eating red meats such as beef, pork, lamb, or venison severe allergic reactions that can range from redness, shortness of breath or allergic circulatory shock. Since the symptoms do not appear until two to six hours after consumption, it is difficult to associate the suffering with the consumption of meat. Researchers at the Luxembourg Institute of Health have now developed a test that can better identify this rare allergy. The study results were recently presented in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The meat allergy has only been known for several years

The existence of meat allergy was first demonstrated in 2009 by US scientists. Even then, the researchers suspected that the alpha-gal syndrome develops mainly as a result of tick bites. The immediate triggers for this food allergy, according to the researchers special sugars that sit on the surface of cells of mammals. These sugars are called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or Alpha-Gal for short. Human cells do not possess these alpha-gal sugars.

Animal sugars trigger allergic reactions

According to the research team, these animal sugars can cause allergic reactions in some people if they enter the bloodstream as a result of a meat meal. So far, this food intolerance could only be demonstrated by the subjects undergo a complex and dangerous oral provocation test: "The affected people ate under medical supervision meat in ever larger quantities until it came to an allergic reaction," says project manager. Christiane Hilger. Because of the time delay, the test is very complex and not without risks.

 

Blood test replaces dangerous provocation test

The German-Luxembourg research team has now succeeded in largely replacing this provocation test with a blood test. In the new blood test, the blood of those affected is stimulated with artificial allergens. "A strong response of the basophils (white blood cells) to the lowest allergen levels is a clear indication of the alpha-gal syndrome," the researchers wrote in a press release on the study results.

Does tick saliva trigger rare meat allergy?

" We know very little about the causes and the immunological foundations of alpha-gal syndrome, "summarizes Hilger. So far, it has been observed that especially humans develop a meat allergy, which previously showed a strong inflammatory response to a tick bite. Which substances in the saliva of the ticks trigger this reaction and what exactly happens in the immune system, should now be clarified in further research.

Basophils for the diagnosis of allergies

The research team also showed that the behavior of the basophils in the blood is suitable for determining allergies. The team points to further studies that have shown that these cells are interesting for further allergological diagnostics, as they also react strongly to other allergenic substances. (Vb)


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