In 2009, we reported a novel form of delayed anaphylaxis to red meat related to serum IgE antibodies to the oligosaccharide galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal). Although patients were remarkably consistent in their description of a 3- to 6-hour delay between eating mammalian meat and the appearance of symptoms, this delay has not been demonstrated under observed studies.
We sought to formally document the time course of clinical symptoms after the ingestion of mammalian meat in subjects with IgE to alpha-gal and to monitor ex vivo for the appearance of markers of an allergic reaction.
Open food challenges were performed with mammalian meat in 12 subjects with a history of severe urticarial reactions 3 to 6 hours after eating beef, pork, or lamb, as well as in 13 control subjects. Blood samples were taken hourly during each challenge.
Ten of 12 subjects with IgE to alpha-gal had clinical evidence of a reaction during the food challenge (vs none of the control subjects, P < .001). The reactions occurred 3 to 7 hours after the initial ingestion of mammalian meat and ranged from urticaria to anaphylaxis. Tryptase levels were positive in 3 challenges. Basophil activation, as measured by increased expression of CD63, correlated with the appearance of clinical symptoms.
The results presented provide clear evidence of an IgE-mediated food allergy that occurs several hours after ingestion of the inciting allergen. Moreover, here we report that in vivo basophil activation during a food challenge occurs in the same time frame as clinical symptoms and likely reflects the appearance of the antigen in the bloodstream.