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Pennsylvania Woman Wees Alcohol Due To Never-Before-Seen Condition

by : Cameron Frew on :
Pennsylvania Woman Wees Alcohol Due To Never-Before-Seen ConditionShutterstock/Pixabay

A Pennsylvania woman has become the first person in the world to be diagnosed with ‘bladder fermentation syndrome’ – a condition that causes her to urinate alcohol. 

The 61-year-old – who hasn’t been named – had been placed on a waiting list for a liver transplant after her battles with cirrhosis and ‘poorly controlled diabetes’.

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However, she kept running into the same wall: her urine regularly tested positive for alcohol, and due to her condition’s synonymy with the drug, she was repeatedly rejected for transplants – with doctors believing her to be harbouring an addiction.

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The woman rejected the claims she was an alcoholic, sending both patient and specialist in a seemingly endless cycle of ‘he said, she said’. Ignoring doctors’ claims to seek out support for alcohol abuse, she visited the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre, where she finally got some firm solutions.

As explored in Annals of Internal Medicine, specialists noted her urine test results for ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate – substances consistent with the ingestion of alcohol – were negative.

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Similarly, her blood tests were also negative for ethanol. So, this had doctors wondering: if the alcohol isn’t in her blood and she isn’t feeling intoxicated, where is it coming from?

Woman On ToiletShutterstock

Essentially, her bladder was acting like a brewery, with microbes fermenting alcohol. This is due to a particular strain of yeast called Candida glabrata, a fungus closely related to brewer’s yeast. After taking samples of the yeast inside her bladder, they placed it in a Petri dish and watched it ferment.

The brewing of alcohol requires a number of things: water, sugar, yeast and a lack of oxygen. Due to the combination of the woman’s urine – laced with sugar due to her diabetes – and the yeast, her bladder would eventually produce alcohol.

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Brewery Pixabay

Kenichi Tamama, study author and Associate Professor of Pathology, told IFLScience:

I think the biggest reason for the patient to develop this condition is her poorly controlled diabetes because the bladder environment with high levels of glucose is definitely an optimistic condition for the growth and activity of the yeast… and diabetes itself is also known to cause immune dysfunction, which should also contribute to this resilient yeast colonisation in the bladder in this case.

It’s similar to auto-brewery syndrome, which causes alcohol to ferment due to the combination of yeast and sugar in the stomach and intestine (it can cause people to feel drunk from just eating carbs).

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As this woman’s condition is localised to the bladder, however, it’s something new entirely and has been dubbed by specialists as ‘bladder fermentation syndrome’ or ‘urinary auto-brewery syndrome’.

To rid her of the yeast infection, the woman was prescribed oral antifungals.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Health, Alcohol, Pennsylvania

Credits

Annals of Internal Medicine and 1 other
  1. Annals of Internal Medicine

    Urinary Auto-brewery Syndrome: A Case Report

  2. IFLScience

    Doctors Diagnose The First Case Of A Woman Who Pees Alcohol