Alpha-Gal Syndrome

Alpha-Gal Syndrome is a condition that most often begins when a Lone Star tick bite transmits a sugar molecule called alpha-gal into the body.

The Reynolds Homestead and New College Institute in Martinsville will be hosting the second Alpha-Gal Symposium on Saturday, Aug. 24, at New College Institute. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the cost to attend is $25, which includes morning refreshments and an Alpha-Gal friendly lunch.

Alpha-Gal Syndrome is a condition that most often begins when a Lone Star tick bite transmits a sugar molecule called alpha-gal into the body. In some people, this triggers an immune system reaction that later produces mild to severe allergic reactions when they eat red meat. For some, even skin contact or inhaling fumes can bring on reactions that may lead to anaphylaxis. 

The Lone Star tick is found predominantly in the southeastern United States, and most cases of alpha-gal syndrome occur in this region. The condition appears to be spreading farther north and west, however, as deer carry the Lone Star tick to new parts of the United States. Alpha-gal syndrome also has been diagnosed in Europe, Australia and Asia, where other types of ticks carry alpha-gal molecules.

The symposium will offer five speakers who address different aspects of the syndrome. Dr. Jennifer Platt, CEO of Tick Warriors and co-founder of Tick-Borne Conditions United, will begin the session with “Let’s Talk about Ticks:  ID, Protection and Prevention.”  

While working on her doctorate in public health from UNC in 2011, Platt contracted Ehrlichiosis and was later confirmed to also have Lyme and Babesia.  Her personal experience with tick-borne illness and interest in using environmentally-safe products led her to start TickWarriors in 2016 and to co-found Tick-borne Conditions United along with Beth Carrison in 2018.

John Bianchi, vice president of product development at Revivicor, Inc., will present “Alpha-Gal Is More than a Simple Food Allergy to Beef and Pork.” Revivicor is a regenerative medicine company focused on applying leading-edge animal biotechnology platforms to provide a superior quality, high-volume, human-compatible, alternative tissue source for treatment of human degenerative disease. The Virginia-based company was formed in 2003 as a spin-out from the UK company PPL Therapeutics, which produced the first cloned animal: Dolly the Sheep. Revivicor has subsequently built on this technology, cloning the first genetically-engineered (GE) pigs, and now produces pig islets, organs and medical devices aimed at human clinical applications.

TBCU co-founder Beth Carrison is actively involved in putting Alpha-Gal Syndrome on the map of recognized diseases in the United States. Her presentation “An Update on Advocacy and Going Forward” will speak to the progress that she and others have made in the past year working with the Senate and the Center for Disease Control on awareness for Alpha-Gal.

Nutritionally managing strict diet changes is one of the challenges that newly-diagnosed Alpha-Gal sufferers have to face. Dr. Laurie Bianchi, RDN, will talk about these issues in her presentation “Nutrition, Dining Out, and Alpha-Gal.” Bianchi is a professor in the Radford University department of Health and Human Performance. 

The keynote address of the symposium presents exciting possibilities for those diagnosed with Alpha-Gal. Dr. Donald Liebell, head of the Liebell Clinic for Chronic Pain and Wellness Solutions in Virginia Beach, performs a specialized acupuncture procedure that has provided remission for many people with the red meat allergy. His presentation “Is Remission Possible? Alpha-Gal and Acupuncture” will explain the procedure and discuss the results of his research study on 40 patients he has treated. 

For 27 years, Dr. Donald Liebell has been a natural and holistic health specialist, with licenses in acupuncture and chiropractic through the Virginia Board of Medicine. He has had the privilege of seeing firsthand, on a regular basis, that people can overcome the numerous chronic effects of tick-triggered illnesses without drugs. Liebell is the writer and designer of two health websites, and the author of the book,” Biting Back – How to Naturally Overcome the Effects of Lyme Disease and Other Chronic Tick-Triggered Illness… After All Else Has Failed.” 

Check in and on-site registration for the symposium will be from 8-9 a.m. at the New College Institute, which is located at 191 Fayette Street in Martinsville.  The symposium will begin promptly at 9 a.m.

An Alpha-Gal safe luncheon will be served, and guests will have an opportunity to try emu, a poultry that tastes just like beef. The luncheon is sponsored in part by Amaroo Hills, an emu, duck and ostrich farm with locations in Tennessee and North Carolina.