Uncovering a Hidden Allergy

The level of expertise in the Carolina community continues to transform the world of medicine. UNC Health’s Scott Commins, MD, PhD, is a prime example of this.

Over the past decade, researchers have begun to discover substantial increase in new allergies to the alpha-gal sugar in red meat. These allergies are stimulated by the bite of a tick species native to North Carolina and the Southeast. Commins has been at the forefront of research into the development of alpha-gal allergy and is now one of the leading experts worldwide on the subject.

“It has become the focus of my career now – it didn’t start out that way,” Commins said. “And it all started with this strange observation in a small group of people.”

Since Commins’ original study of only two dozen people, his work over the past 10 years has touched the lives of many.

“I was floored at just how little information was available,” said Sharon Forsyth, a Washington, D.C., native who was diagnosed with alpha-gal allergy in 2019 and began seeing Commins in October. “[Commins] is such an important person to the tens of thousands of people who have been diagnosed and the potential millions who haven’t yet been diagnosed.”

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