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Biology, Strange

Auto Brewery Syndrome: Make Free “Beer” in Your Gut?

Some rare individuals can make alcohol in their bodies. A 61-year old Texas man went to the ER with a 0.37 percent blood alcohol level, well above the legal 0.08 limit for driving. In fact, at 0.4 you could expect to be in a coma or dead. Doctors and even the man’s wife suspected the man was a closet drinker, but he had not taken a drink. He had a rare condition where his gut made alcohol.

Auto-brewery syndrome, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, is a rare medical condition in which intoxicating quantities of ethanol are produced through endogenousfermentation within the digestive system. One gastrointestinal organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a type of yeast, has been identified as a pathogen for this condition.

Claims of endogenous fermentation of this type have been used as a defense against drunk driving charges. One case went undetected for 20 years. It has also been investigated, but eliminated, as a possible cause of sudden infant death syndrome. 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.


Before he was diagnosed with the syndrome, the patient’s wife — who was a nurse — was so concerned with her husband’s constantly drunk condition that she had him regularly tested with a Breathalyzer. He would record numbers as high as 0.33 to 0.4 percent, considerably higher than the U.S. legal driving limit of 0.08 percent.


This table shows the general effects of different but alcohol percentages:

0.130-0.159% : Gross motor impairment and lack of physical control. Blurred vision and major loss of balance. Euphoria is reducing and beginning dysphoria (a state of feeling unwell)

0.160-0.199% : Dysphoria predominates, nausea may appear. The drinker has the appearance of a sloppy drunk.

0.200-0.249% : Needs assistance in walking; total mental confusion. Dysphoria with nausea and vomiting; possible blackout.

0.250-0.399% : Alcohol poisoning. Loss of consciousness.

0.40% + : Onset of coma, possible death due to respiratory arrest.


In old stories a wish sometimes turned out badly if the Jinn who owed you the wish was evil. Don’t wish for endless free alcohol or you might be given “brewery syndrome” by a bad genie.


About Xeno

E pluribus unum.


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