A group of scientists stated that the genetic and molecular structure of key molecules linked to allergy to Red meat of mammals, sometimes life-threatening, is caused by tick bites. The research, coordinated by the scientists of the Garvan Institute of Medical Researchdescribes in detail how antibodies interact with sugar molecule galactose-α-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal / α-gal)which is produced by all mammals except humans and higher primates, and further confirms α-gal’s role as a key molecule for this unique allergy.
The results of the study have been published in the scientific journal PNAS.
Allergy to red meat: genetic and molecular information revealed
When humans are exposed to α-gal, through the bites of certain tick species, such as tick paralysis Ixodes holocyclus endemic toEastern Australiathe immune system can signal it as harmful and instigate a genetic response, sometimes with near-dire outcomes.
The lead author, Professor Daniel Christ, head of antibody therapy and director of the Center for Targeted Therapy at Garvan, said that molecular analysis showed that a particular type of antibody (3-7) has a natural pocket into which α-gal fits perfectly.
“We have more than 70 types of antibodies and this is significantly overrepresented with α-gal recognition. We appear to be genetically predisposed to be sensitive to this sugar“Said Professor Christ.
These revelations pave the way for potential therapeutic candidates for the treatment of the rare allergic response.
The Scientists analyzed the blood of patients with mammalian meat allergy to determine which antibodies were produced: type 3-7 was frequently found in response to α-gal. This information underscored an evolutionary advantage of having an antibody response that can mobilize against α-gal.
“Humans have lost the ability to produce α-gal during evolution, but we don’t know why“, The Associate Professor tried to explain Joanne Reedsenior co-author of this study, del Westmead Institute: “The I suspect that it has to do with protection against infectious diseases ”. Professor Christ evaluated recent malaria research, in which the Plasmodium parasite has an α-gal coating on its surface. A rapid immune response to α-gal could destroy the parasite before it takes hold, protecting a person from malaria. “
The Northern Sydney region is a global hot spot for red meat allergy, with over 1,800 reported cases and the highest prevalence in the world. The Sunshine Coast hinterland around Maleny in Queensland is also another hot spot. The tick of paralysis (Ixodes holocyclus) is found in those areas.
The teacher Sheryl van Nunenallergy specialist to Northern Beaches Hospital in Sydney and co-author of the article, she was the first clinic to link tick bites with red meat allergy: “Not a week goes by when I wouldn’t see two people with this allergy”he has declared.
To date, it is not known why some people develop anaphylaxis and others never respond. Professor van Nunen says it could be related to the number of tick bites, the amount of saliva injected or genetic sensitivity.
Exposure occurs when α-gal, present in the saliva of some tick species, is injected during a bite, says Professor van Nunen. About a third of people who have developed a sensitivity to α-gal will have symptoms of a mammalian meat allergy, he says. And one more bite can more than double the allergic response. Some people with severe allergies may be affected by the presence of red meat products in their food, such as beef broth, soft cheeses such as feta or goat cheese, or even jelly.
Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) is a recently identified type of food allergy to red meat and other animal products. In the United States, the condition is most often caused by a bite of mint Lone Star, known in Italy as the lone star mint. The bite transmits a sugar molecule called alpha-gal into the body of the individual attacked by the tick. In certain individuals, this phenomenon triggers an immune system reaction that later produces mild to severe allergic reactions to red meat, such as beef, pork or lamb, or other mammalian products.
However, the bite of a tick should not be neglected because, in addition to allergy to red meat, they can be a vehicle for other bacterial diseases such as Borrelia, or Lyme disease, from the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, or viral diseases such as TBE and tick-borne encephalitis.
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