Researchers at the University of Virginia report that people with alpha-gal, an allergy to red meat induced by tick bite, may accumulate more plaque in their arteries than those without the allergy, making them more susceptible to heart disease. Study results found that those with alpha-gal allergy had 30 percent more plaque inside their arteries and the plaque had features characteristic of unstable plaques, putting these patients at a higher risk for heart attack.
People with the alpha-gal allergy develop symptoms three to eight hours after ingesting mammalian meat (not poultry or fish). Many with alpha-gal sensitivity (determined by a simple blood test) do not have symptoms. It appears that plaque accumulation can also occur in those sensitized to alpha-gal who don’t have symptoms.
Additional studies are needed to confirm the findings, researchers say. The study was published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.
In related news, a recent study suggests that people with blood type B or AB may be five times less likely to develop alpha-gal allergy. Researchers in this study compared the frequencies of blood types O, A, B and AB in a group of 280 people (92 had the allergy) and found that only 4% of the alpha-gal patients had a blood type with the B antigen. Researchers had expected this group would make up about 20% of the total cases. The protective mechanism is unclear. Study author Jonathan Brestoff, MD, PhD, MPH, hypothesized that “people who express the B antigen have immune systems that are trained to ignore alpha-gal because it looks like an innocuous self-antigen.”
The study was presented at the 2018 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and the World Allergy Organization Joint Congress in March.
Editor’s note: For more about tick-induced red meat allergy, go to GlutenFreeAndMore.com/alpha-gal.