What is "Alpha gal"?

"Alpha gal" refers to galactose-alpha 1,3-galactose, a sugar that is found in lower mammals such as cows and pigs.

What happens when you have an allergy to it?

Patients who have alpha gal allergy develop an allergic reaction some hours after eating foods containing, for example, beef, pork, or lamb. This allergic reaction can be breaking out in hives or more severe, with difficulty breathing or loss of consciousness. It can be life-threatening.

How do you get it?

We do not know for sure, but it has been proposed that it is related to tick bites in some way. We do know that the condition seems to have a geographic distribution -- it is more prevalent in some places than in others. North Carolina is one of the places where many cases are being identified.

What do I do if I think I have this allergy?

If you think you have this allergy or you have had allergic reactions as described above and no cause has been identified, you should come in to be evaluated. Based on your history and certain testing, we may be able to make a diagnosis. If you do have this condition, we can give you guidance on how to manage it and avoid reactions.

Maya Jerath, MD, PhD and other researchers at UNC are studying alpha gal allergy.

Research objectives include:

  1. To identify who gets this disease and why
  2. To identify a valid means of diagnosing this condition
  3. To figure out why some reactions are so mild (or even non-existent) while others are life-threatening
  4. Ultimately, to understand enough about this allergy to be able to find a cure

 

For more information:

Learn more about alpha gal on the People's Pharmacy.

Read this blog about Alpha Gal Research

Read a patient's perspective on alpha gal.