A man has found himself almost permanently drunk after developing a condition in which his stomach turns carbs into alcohol.
Whenever the 46-year-old patient consumes carbs, his stomach essentially becomes a brewery, fermenting its own endless alcohol supply, which is a lot less fun that it might sound.
Doctors revealed the strange symptoms of auto-brewery syndrome (ABS), a rarely diagnosed condition which means consuming carbohydrates can be enough to make you pissed out your head, in a recent case study.
This patient in particular is an otherwise healthy man, who had only ever been a light social drinker.
As per Science Alert, he first started having problems back in 2011, when he’d just finished a course of antibiotics for a thumb injury. After just a week of tablets he reported unusual personality changes, which included depression, ‘brain fog’, aggressive behaviour, and memory loss.
Initially, he was referred to a psychiatrist and given antidepressants, but it was only when the man was pulled over by police one morning and accused of drunk driving that the nature of his real illness began to make itself known.
When pulled over, he refused to do a breathalyser test and was hospitalised, where tests showed he had a blood alcohol level of 200 mg/dL, which is equivalent to having drunk approximately 10 alcoholic drinks. Although the man had no idea how he was drunk, it did explain his confusion, disorientation, impaired balance and slurred speech.
In their report, researchers from Richmond University Medical Center noted:
The hospital personnel and police refused to believe him when he repeatedly denied alcohol ingestion.
After being discharged from hospital, the man approached a clinic in Ohio for advice, and while most of his medical tests looked normal, his stool sample showed the presence of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is also known as brewer’s yeast, and a related fungus.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae is used in beer brewing and wine making because it helps ferment carbohydrates and produces alcohol.
Although the patient received treatment at the clinic, his ABS was shown in subsequent flare-ups, with the most serious ending in a fall which caused intracranial bleeding.
While recovering in hospital, his blood alcohol spiked as high as 400 mg/dL – twice the concentration recorded when he was pulled over, however the researchers noted, ‘medical staff refused to believe that he did not drink alcohol despite his persistent denials.’
The man eventually sought help from the Richmond University specialists, who used a combination of anti-fungal therapies and probiotics to treat the man’s gut microflora.
Despite one relapse, caused by a pizza and fizzy pop binge, the patient’s fungal growth appears to have been successfully treated.
The researchers explained:
Approximately one-and-a-half years later, he remains asymptomatic and has resumed his previous lifestyle, including eating a normal diet while still checking his breath alcohol levels sporadically.
They believe it was caused by an exposure to antibiotics, ‘which resulted in a change in his gastrointestinal microbiome allowing fungal overgrowth’.
Fortunately, the diagnosis lifted the cloud of disbelief from the poor man, who everyone believed to be a secret drinker.
All of the researchers’ findings are reported in the BMJ Open Gastroenterology.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.