Serum IgE against galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose is common in Laotian patients with snakebite envenoming but not the major trigger for early anaphylactic reactions to antivenom

Blessmann, J., Hanlodsomphou, S., Santisouk, B., Choumlivong, K., Soukhaphouvong, S., Chanthilat, P., Brockow, K., Biedermann, T. (2020). Toxicon X 7, 100054.

DOI:10.1016/j.toxcx.2020.100054(link is external)


Snake antivenom is the only specific treatment for snakebite envenoming, but life-threatening anaphylaxis is a severe side effect and drawback for the use of these typically mammalian serum products. The present study investigates the hypotheses whether serum IgE antibodies against the epitope galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (α-gal) located on the heavy chain of non-primate mammalian antibodies are a possible cause for hypersensitivity reactions to snake antivenom. Serum samples from 55 patients with snakebite envenoming were obtained before administration of snake antivenom and tested for serum IgE (sIgE) against α-gal and total IgE. Early anaphylactic reactions (EARs) during the first 3 h after antivenom administration were classified into mild, moderate or severe and correlated with the presence of sIgE against α-gal. Fifteen (27%) out of 55 patients (37 male, 18 female, median 34 years, range 9–90 years) developed EARs after antivenom administration. Eleven, three and one patients had mild, moderate and severe EARs, respectively. Serum IgE against α-gal was detected in 17 patients (31%); in five (33%) out of 15 patients with EARs and in 12 (30%) out of 40 patients without EAR (Odds Ratio = 1.2; 95%-confidence interval: 0.3–4.2) with no correlation to severity. Although the prevalence of serum IgE against α-gal was high in the study population, very high levels of total IgE in the majority of patients question their clinical relevance and rather indicate unspecific sIgE binding instead of allergy. Lack of correlation between α-gal sIgE and EARs together with significantly increased total IgE levels suggest that sIgE against α-gal is not the major trigger for hypersensitivity reactions against snake antivenom.