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Viracor-IBT Laboratories Launches the First Assay to Identify a New Type of Delayed, IgE-based Allergic Reaction to Certain Meats

Kansas City, MO – September 13, 2010 – Viracor-IBT Laboratories today announced the launch of the first commercially available assay to detect IgE antibodies against galactosealpha- 1,3-galactose (Alpha-Gal). The Alpha-Gal IgE assay will assist clinicians in the identification of a recently discovered type of delayed, IgE-based, allergic reaction following the ingestion of certain meats.

Alpha-Gal is a carbohydrate (sugar) found in the meat of non-primate mammals, cow’s milk and dog and cat dander. Persons who are Alpha-Gal IgE positive have previously been sensitized to Alpha-Gal after being bitten by certain types of tick; cases have been concentrated predominantly in the Southeast United States and parts of Australia.

Other than the allergic reaction being delayed-onset, the symptoms of Alpha-Gal allergy are similar to those of other food allergies and can result in hives, swelling, intestinal irritation, and anaphylaxis—a life-threatening medical condition.

“Alpha-Gal presents a real paradigm shift in allergy thinking and testing. The traditional view is that people become sensitized to foods during childhood and subsequent exposure to that particular food results in an immediate allergic reaction,” said Dr. John F. Halsey, Scientific Advisor to Viracor-IBT Laboratories. “The delayed onset of the IgE-based allergic reaction to Alpha-Gal makes it more difficult to determine a linkage between the offending food and the allergic reaction. Standard food allergy tests are not sensitive enough to detect IgE against Alpha-Gal, which represents only a small fraction of the allergen preparation used in the standard assay. In the ViraCor-IBT Alpha-Gal IgE assay launched today, the allergen is pure Alpha-Gal, resulting in a greatly enhanced sensitivity.”

Although it has been difficult to estimate the prevalence of allergic sensitization to Alpha-Gal, recent studies by Thomas Platts-Mills, MD, PhD and Scott Commins, MD, PhD (who in conjunction first described the IgE-based delayed allergic reaction) have shown that Alpha-Gal allergies are more common that initially believed. The team screened samples from 60 patients with suspected food allergies that could not be directly linked to a specific food source. Eighty percent (80%) of these patients had been recently bitten by a tick, with IgE antibodies to Alpha- Gal present in over 40% of samples.

“Viracor-IBT is pleased to add the galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (Alpha-Gal) IgE assay to our extensive allergy and immunology menu,” said Steve Kleiboeker, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of Viracor-IBT Laboratories. “Although tests that measure IgE levels to meats have been around for 30 years, this test is the first available commercial assay that is both highly specific and sensitive for IgE to the Alpha-Gal carbohydrate allergen present in certain meats. The Alpha-Gal IgE assay offers a new level of information that can provide physicians a more comprehensive picture of their patient’s condition and allergic risk profile.”

Patient results for the galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (Alpha-Gal) IgE assay are provided within two business days of receipt of sample by the laboratory.

About Viracor-IBT Laboratories

Viracor-IBT Laboratories, Inc. is a leading specialty laboratory in immune status diagnostics, offering an extensive and ever-expanding menu of immunology, infectious disease and allergy tests. The company serves physicians, hospitals, commercial laboratories and biopharmaceutical companies. 

1. Chung CH, Mirakhur B, Chan E, et al. Cetuximab-induced anaphylaxis and IgE specific for galactose-α-1,3-galactose. New Engl J Med. 2008;358:1109-1117.

2. Commins SP, Satinover SM, Hosen J, et al. Delayed anaphylaxis, angioedema, or urticaria after consumption of red meat in patients with IgE antibodies specific for galactose-α-1,3- galactose. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009;123(2):426-433.

3. Commins SP and Platts-Mills TA. Anaphylaxis syndromes related to a new mammalian cross-reactive carbohydrate determinant. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009;124(4): 652-657.

4. Van Nunen S A, O’connor KS, Clarke LR, Boyle RX, Fernando SI. An association between tick bite reactions and red meat allergy in humans. Med J Aust. 2009;190:510-511.

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