CDC Reports Significant Cases of Alpha-Gal Syndrome in the United States

According to recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2010 and 2022, over 110,000 suspected cases of alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) were identified. However, due to the nature of diagnosing AGS, which requires both positive diagnostic tests and clinical exams, it is estimated that up to 450,000 people may have been affected by this condition in the United States. The CDC highlights the need for awareness and understanding of AGS among healthcare providers, as studies reveal that many are not familiar with this emerging and potentially life-threatening allergic condition, also known as the red-meat allergy or tick bite meat allergy.

The CDC conducted two studies to shed light on the issue. In one study, over 1,500 family/general practitioners, internists, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants across the country were surveyed. Shockingly, nearly half of the respondents had not even heard of AGS, and about one-third expressed low confidence in diagnosing or managing patients with AGS, with only five percent feeling very confident in their abilities.

In another study, CDC researchers analyzed laboratory test results from 2017 to 2022 from a leading commercial lab that offered testing in the United States. More than 300,000 specimens were submitted by healthcare providers on behalf of patients suspected of having AGS, and over 30 percent of these tests returned positive results.

Dr. Ann Carpenter, an epidemiologist and lead author of one of the reports, emphasizes the importance of clinician awareness of AGS. Proper evaluation, diagnosis, and management of patients, along with education on tick-bite prevention, can help protect individuals from developing this allergic condition that can have lasting health impacts.

Alpha-gal is a sugar found in meat from mammals and mammal-derived products. AGS is an allergic condition triggered when individuals consume food or products containing alpha-gal. Research indicates that AGS is primarily associated with lone star tick bites in the United States, though other tick species have not been ruled out. Southern, midwestern, and mid-Atlantic regions have identified more cases with positive test results.

Dr. Johanna Salzer, senior author on both papers released by the CDC, points out the significant burden of AGS, considering the large number of undiagnosed cases due to non-specific symptoms, challenges in seeking healthcare, and lack of clinician awareness. Seeking medical attention and providing a detailed symptom history is crucial for those who suspect they might suffer from AGS. A blood test that looks for specific antibodies to alpha-gal is often recommended for diagnosis, along with allergy skin testing as per the healthcare provider’s advice.

Symptoms of AGS can vary widely, ranging from hives or itchy rash to severe stomach pain, and may appear 2-6 hours after consuming alpha-gal-containing products. Preventing tick bites is key in reducing the risk of tickborne diseases and potentially developing AGS. For more information about AGS and tick bite prevention, refer to the CDC’s resources. Stay informed, stay safe, and take care of your health!

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Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]
Dr. Muhammad Hussain
Dr. Muhammad Hussain

MD, Entrepeneur & Administrator. Six years of experience, working in the field of clinical care, medical administration, and healthcare business.

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