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Beer gut brewing: The strange mystery of auto-brewery syndrome

Getting pulled over by an officer on suspicion of drunk driving can be a frightening - as well as embarrassing - situation, especially if you were sure you were good to drive. But what if you haven't had a drop of alcohol all day and are still pulled over by police for a DUI/DWI? What's worse, you're also showing all of the signs of intoxication and are thus arrested as a result.

For people living with an incredibly rare condition called auto-brewery syndrome, this scenario could become a very real - and very serious - situation to deal with. But what is auto-brewery syndrome and why is it a condition everyone should be aware of? 

A look at auto-brewery syndrome

Auto-brewery syndrome, also referred to as gut-fermentation syndrome, is considered an incredibly rare condition because of the minimal number of diagnosed cases and the relatively scant literature concerning the condition. Despite minimal documentation, we know that the condition oftentimes occurs in patients whose digestive tracts contain high levels of gastrointestinal yeast that convert carbohydrates into ethanol.

The reason your should care

Two recent and well publicized cases regarding auto-brewery syndrome are reason enough for people to take notice of the condition. That's because, in a 2014 case involving a New York woman, auto-brewery syndrome nearly led to a DUI/DWI charge when the woman blew a 0.40 BAC when stopped by police. The charges were later dropped when she was able to present evidence supporting her condition.

Although it's unclear from reports how the woman developed the condition, a 2010 case involving a 61-year-old man may provide some clues as well as a reason why other should be concerned.

That's because Saccharomyces cerevisiae - a bacteria typically only associated with baking, brewing and wine making - was discovered in the man's digestive tract. According to a 2014 article for Medical Bag, it's believed that antibiotics given to the man in 2004 wiped out his normal bacteria, allowing S. cerevisiae to take up residency. If it could happen once, it's possible it could happen to other people.

Even though auto-brewery syndrome is rare, the cases above show it's possible to develop a condition that could lead to drunk driving charges. Simply knowing about this condition may provide you and your attorney with the answers you need to develop a strong defense strategy against charges, especially when all of the normal answers don't seem to be adding up.

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