[Update on meat allergy. α-Gal: a new epitope, a new entity?].Hautarzt. 2012 Apr; 63(4):299-306.H
The association between the carbohydrate galactose-[alpha]-1,3-galactose (α-Gal) and anaphylaxis was first documented after severe hypersensitivity reactions to cetuximab, a chimeric mouse-human IgG1 monoclonal antibody approved for targeted therapy of carcinomas of colon, as well as of the head and neck region. α-Gal is a ubiquitous glycan moiety expressed on cells and tissue of non-primate mammals. Since this epitope is not expressed in humans, it is very immunogenic for them. α-Gal is located on the Fab portion of cetuximab and thus on the murine part of the chimera. The anaphylactic reactions to the antibody were mediated by IgE specific for α-Gal. Anti-α-Gal-IgE were first detected in sera of patients from the southeastern U.S. and reacted with a wide range of mammalian allergens. The geographic distribution prompted investigations of sensitization routes apart from the ingestion of red meat, such as tick bites und parasitic infections. Anti-α-Gal-IgE seems to be of clinical relevance for allergy to red meat and for the pork-cat syndrome. It is also associated with a novel form of delayed anaphylaxis, which appears more than 3 hours following the ingestion of red meat (beef, pork and lamb), a phenomenon which is still to be elucidated. For most of these patients conventional skin prick tests with commercial reagents proved insufficient for diagnosis.