How Blood Type Affects the Likelihood of Developing Alpha-gal, or Red Meat, Allergy
Alpha-gal allergy, which is often referred to as red meat or mammalian meat allergy, is where the body develops allergic antibodies to the galactose- 1,3- galactose carbohydrate structure found in mammals. Sensitization is thought to occur through passage of blood via tick bites. In the United States, sensitization has been found in association with the lone star tick distribution which is found primarily in central and southeastern areas of the US. Those who develop the allergy often present with symptoms of anaphylaxis from eating mammalian meat, but the reaction can be delayed several hours after the ingestion.
Research presented in 2018 suggests certain blood types might be less prone to developing red meat allergy. Those with type B or AB blood type were less likely to be diagnosed with red meat allergy. The theory is that blood type B may share certain structural similarities with alpha gal causing those with B type blood to ignore the transferred substance since it is similar to their own tissue.
Although having B type blood might make someone less susceptible to meat allergy, it might also make them more susceptible to certain infectious diseases. A study published in Experimental and Molecular Medicine in 2017 found that infection with alpha gal containing organisms like malaria and tuberculosis positively correlated with blood type B.
A diminished immune response is good from an allergy perspective but might be a disadvantage when fighting off infectious diseases.
Regardless of blood type, talk to your Allergy Partners allergist if you think you have a food allergy like the alpha gal, meat allergy.
By Dr. Derek Damin
Allergy Partners of Louisville
B Antigen Protects Against the Development of α-Gal-mediated Red Meat Allergy
Jonathan R. Brestoff, Merih T. Tesfazghi, Ronald Jackups Jr., Mitchell G. Scott, Ann M. Gronowski, Brenda J. Grossman
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Vol. 141, Issue 2, AB230; February 2018
Correlation of Blood Type with the Presence of IgE Antibodies to Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (Alpha-gal): Is there a Protective Effect of Blood Group Substance B?
J. Posthumus, H. James, X. Wang, S. Commins, T.A.E. Platts-Mills
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Vol. 125, Issue 2, AB203; February 2010
Effect of blood type on anti-α-Gal immunity and the incidence of infectious diseases.
Cabezas-Cruz A, Mateos-Hernández L, Alberdi P, Villar M, Riveau G, Hermann E, Schacht AM, Khalife J, Correia-Neves M, Gortazar C, de la Fuente J.
Experimental and Molecular Medicine 49(3):e301 · March 2017