Microbes in woman's gut brew alcohol, making her drunk without drinking

Over two years, a 50-year-old woman in Toronto showed up at a hospital emergency room seemingly drunk, slurring her words, and stinking of booze. She was understandably quite upset as she also reported feeling drowsy at odd and inopportune times, like while she was preparing for work or cooking food. She insisted that she hadn't had a sip to drink though.

"In recent years, she had stopped drinking altogether because of her religious beliefs," report University of Toronto physicians in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

After being evaluated by psychiatrists, who determined she was not an alcoholic in denial, she was finally diagnosed with auto-brewery syndrome. Auto-brewery syndrome occurs when fungi like Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer's yeast) and Candida albicans proliferate in large quantities in the gut an then convert the carbohydrates from a person's diet into alcohol, leading to drunkenness. Since its discovery in the 1940s, there have been less than 100 cases documented.

In this patient's case, her microbiome became messed up after taking several heavy courses of antibiotics to treat recurrent urinary tract infections.

"The woman's doctors suspected that, in addition to clearing her UTIs, these heavy doses of antibiotics wiped out helpful bacteria in her gut," explains Live Science. "This likely cleared the way for various fungi in the gut to take over. Some of these fungi can ferment carbohydrates, essentially brewing their own alcohol."

Antifungal medications, probiotics, a low-card diet eliminated put her internal brewery out of business.

"Auto-brewery syndrome carries substantial social, legal, and medical consequences for patients and their loved ones," the physicians wrote in the medical journey.

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