|Other names||Gut fermentation syndrome|
Auto-brewery syndrome is a rare medical condition in which intoxicating quantities of ethanol are produced through endogenous fermentation within the digestive system. Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a type of yeast best known for its uses in producing bread and alcoholic beverages, has been identified as a pathogen for this condition. Recent research has also shown that Klebsiella bacteria can similarly ferment carbohydrates to alcohol in the gut, which can accelerate non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Claims of endogenous fermentation of this type have been used as a defense against drunk driving charges. But since some judges reject this defense and have issued prison terms, doctors caution that "these patients have to be very careful about driving a motor vehicle" since in those jurisdictions, these patients would be arrested for being over the legally defined blood alcohol content limit (which varies vastly by state and local jurisdiction) even if the patients were not actually impaired at the time of arrest.
One case went undetected for 20 years.
A variant occurs in persons with liver abnormalities that prevent them from excreting or breaking down alcohol normally. Patients with this condition can develop symptoms of auto-brewery syndrome even when the gut yeast produces a quantity of alcohol that is too small to intoxicate a healthy individual.
This disease can have profound effects on everyday life. As well as the recurring side effects of excessive belching, dizziness, dry mouth, hangovers, disorientation, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome, it can lead to other health problems such as depression, anxiety and poor productivity in employment. The random state of intoxication can lead to personal difficulties, and the relative obscurity of the condition can also make it hard to seek treatment. [unreliable medical source?]
Alcohol can be detected by testing blood or the breath. This may have to be repeated at multiple times of the day to account for naturally occurring fluctuations.
There are different treatments that can be used by themselves or in combination. Dietary carbohydrate control, antifungal or antibiotic therapy, general antibiotic avoidance, and probiotics have all shown positive effects as treatments.
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