I reported a case of Auto Brewery Syndrome last year on http://www.24hscience.com
This is another case reported in the media on Feb 12,2014. Go to http://www.vice.com/read/my-gut-turns-yeast-into-alcohol for complete details.
This is a rare case of a Texas man who was tested for alcohol limit far above the permissible limit when he has not taken a drop of alcohol or beer.It happened in 2009 when a 61-year-old man stumbled into a Texas emergency room complaining of dizziness. Nurses ran a Breathalyzer test. And sure enough, the man’s blood alcohol concentration was a whopping 0.37 percent, or almost five times the legal limit for driving in Texas US.The nurses did not believe when the man said that he hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol that day.The man had been a home-brewer of beer and likely was regularly exposed to the brewer’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the fungus used to ferment beer. He probably acquired his own private brewery in 2004 after antibiotics treatment killed off his original intestinal flora and replaced it with brewer’s yeast. Watch this video on science of brewing: http://natgeotv.com/ca/megafactories/videos/science-of-brewing
According to Barabara Cordell,dean of nursing at Panola College in Carthage ,Texas, on a Sunday morning after being at church, the man complained of heavily drunk. “His wife was so dismayed about it that she even bought a Breathalyzer.”Other medical professionals chalked up the man’s problem to “closet drinking.” But Cordell and Dr. Justin McCarthy, a gastroenterologist in Lubbock, wanted to figure out what was really going on. So the team searched the man’s belongings for liquor and then kept him isolated in a hospital room for 24 hours. Throughout the day, he was given carbohydrate-rich foods, and the doctors periodically checked his blood for alcohol concentration. At one point, it rose 0.12 percent.
Eventually, McCarthy and Cordell pinpointed the culprit: an overabundance of brewer’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae,in his gut.That’s right, folks. According to Cordell and McCarthy, the man’s intestinal tract was acting like his own internal brewery.
The patient had an infection with this yeast Cordell says. So when he ate or drank a bunch of starch — a bagel, pasta or even a soda — the yeast fermented the sugars into ethanol, and he would get drunk.Essentially, he was brewing beer in his own gut. Cordell and McCarthy reported the case of “auto-brewery syndrome” in April of 2010 in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine.
When we first read the case study, we were more than a little skeptical. It sounded crazy, a phenomenon similar to spontaneous combustion.It was totally unbelievable how could a person’s gut really generate that much ethanol?
Brewer’s yeast is in a whole host of foods, including breads, wine and, of course, beer (hence, the name). These small animals (critters) usually don’t do any harm. They just flow right through our food chain. Some people even take Saccharomyces as a probiotic (beneficial microorganisms) supplement.
But it turns out that in rare cases, the yeasty beasts can indeed stay for a long time in the gut and possibly cause problems, says Dr. Joseph Heitman, a microbiologist at Duke University NC.
“Researchers have shown unequivocally that Saccharomyces can grow in the intestinal tract,” Heitman tells The Salt. “But it’s still unclear whether it’s associated with any disease” — or whether it could make someone drunk from the gut up.
We searched around the little literature on auto-brewery syndrome and uncovered a handful of cases similar to the one in Texas. Some reports in Japan date back to the 1970s. In most instances, the infections occurred after a person took antibiotics — which can wipe out the bacteria in the gut, making room for fungi like yeast to flourish — or had another illness that suppresses their immune system.
Still, such case reports remain extremely rare. Heitman says he had never heard of auto-brewery syndrome until we called him up. “It sounds interesting,” he says. But he’s also cautious. “The problem with a case report,” he notes, “is that it’s just one person. It’s not a controlled clinical study.”