Auto-Brewery syndrome is a rare digestive disease
For 8 years, a man was repeatedly arrested for DUI while not drinking a drop of alcohol. He had auto-brewery syndrome, a rare digestive disease.
It all started in 2011, when the 46-year-old American was treated with antibiotics. At the end of the treatment, he began to walk, stagger and fall regularly. And he was even arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence even though he did not take any alcohol. His doctor and his family were convinced that he simply drank secretly.
All tests showed he had high blood alcohol levels
The truth was much more surprising and unexpected. The Antibiotics that he took earlier caused his intestinal flora to become unbalanced with certain fungi and bacteria capable to turn carbohydrates into alcohol to take over. And every time he ate a pizza, a serving of chips, or a lemonade, legions of bacteria and fungi deliberately converted carbohydrates into ethanol, causing all the symptoms of extreme blood alcohol levels.
Auto-brewery Syndrome, also known as Gut Fermentation Syndrome, is a rare and under-diagnosed digestive disease, as the gastroenterologist of this patient explains. The disease is associated with an accumulation of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae in the intestines. This fungus is found in starchy foods (bread, rice) and even in some food supplements (probiotics). This is the same yeast used in the alcohol industry as it can produce alcohol from sugar. Blood tests of people with this syndrome can have such high alcohol content in their blood that doctors may suspect a major case of alcoholism.
IS Auto-Brewery syndrome treatable?
Scientists still do not know exactly why the syndrome suddenly occurs and have not yet developed a reliable way to stop it from developing. Patients with the disease are first prescribed an antifungal treatment to eliminate the yeast, combined with probiotics to bring good bacteria back into the intestines. They are then required to follow a strict diet without sugar, starch or alcohol to reduce the risk of involuntary fermentation.