Nausea, vomiting, dizziness or an itchy rash – these classic allergy symptoms occur when sufferers eat a burger or a schnitzel. You suffer from the so-called Alpha Gal Syndrome (AGS) and are allergic to red meat.
According to a report by the US health authority CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on Thursday, around 100,000 Americans have been affected since 2010. However, because there is no obligation to report, the experts assume that the number of unreported cases is large. The authority writes that it could even be 450,000. Most without knowing it. Answers to the five most important questions.
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What exactly is Alpha Gal Syndrome (AGS)?
Alpha-Gal Syndrome is a food allergy. The allergic reaction is triggered when eating food that contains the sugar molecule alpha-gal (short for galactose-a-1,3-galactose).
These include mainly red meat (pork, beef, lamb, game), in rare cases also dairy products or sweets with gelatine.
The background is that most mammals, with the exception of humans and some species of monkeys, produce alpha-gal naturally in the body. Poultry or fish, on the other hand, contain no alpha-gal.
What role does the tick play?
Alpha-Gal is also found in the saliva of certain tick species. The US researchers associate the allergy primarily with the Lone Star tick.
Specifically, the following happens: After a tick bite, humans develop antibodies against alpha-gal. From that moment on, the body is geared to fight the alpha-gal sugar molecules. If, for example, red meat is eaten, the body triggers an immune reaction to fight it and allergy symptoms occur.
What are the symptoms?
According to the CDC, you may experience the following symptoms:
hives or itchy rash nausea or vomiting heartburn or indigestion diarrhea cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing drop in blood pressure swelling of the lips, throat, tongue or eyelids dizziness or fainting severe abdominal pain
The reactions often only appear three to six hours after consumption on. This is because Alpha-Gal must first pass through the digestive tract before it is released. Only then does the fight begin.
To date, no one has died from AGS. Nevertheless, the US authority warns: “AGS can serious and even life-threatening be. Get emergency medical attention right away if you have a severe allergic reaction.”
Can Alpha Gal Syndrome be Treated?
There is still no vaccine available, and the allergy cannot be cured. However, there are treatment options for the side effects of allergy. In addition, as with other allergies, it is recommended to avoid these foods.
By the way: The conventional prick test on the skin is not sufficient for proof. A special blood test for antibodies is required.
Are there also cases in Germany?
Researchers assume that the cases occur in particular after a Lone Star tick bite. This tick species is predominantly found in the Northeast and Southern United States. According to the experts, the number of cases could have increased because the tick is now spreading to other regions. Climate change and increasingly warm temperatures favor the spread.
Very isolated cases are also reported in Germany. The European Center for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF) reported around 100 cases in 2019.