Medicine

Woman's Body Actually 'Auto-Brewed' Alcohol

This post originally appeared on WebMD.

Specifically, she had an abundance of Candida glabrata, which is closely related to brewer yeast. So the microbes began converting their sugar supply into alcohol.

The case is described Feb. 24 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It adds to some researchers’ belief that the auto-brewery phenomenon is less rare than thought.

Last year, doctors at Richmond University Medical Center, in New York, reported on the case of a 46-year-old man who’d complained of memory loss, depression and other mental symptoms for over six years.

Eventually, he was arrested for drunk driving, with tests showing a blood alcohol level well above the legal limit. When the man denied drinking, doctors and police refused to believe him.

It turned out that he had ABS, and his doctors believe antibiotics were to blame. The man’s symptoms started after a long course of the bacteria-killing drugs, said Dr. Fahad Malik, one of the doctors who treated him.

It’s believed the antibiotics disrupted the normal bacterial makeup of the man’s gut, which allowed alcohol-producing yeast to thrive.

Since antibiotics are widely used, does that mean ABS could be more common than sporadic reports suggest?

“For sure. We think it’s underdiagnosed,” said Malik, who is now with the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

At this point, he said, the team has seen about 15 additional patients with ABS. And prolonged antibiotic use is the common denominator.

But clearly, only select antibiotic users come down with ABS. “That’s the mystery,” said researcher Barbara Cordell. “Why do only some people develop this?”

Cordell is an adjunct professor at Panola College, in Texas, and president of the nonprofit Auto-Brewery Syndrome Information and Research. Her interest in ABS began when her husband developed the condition.

Cordell said that while ABS can occur in healthy people, it seems more prevalent in those with medical conditions that disrupt the gut microbial balance — like diabetes, obesity, Crohn’s disease and short bowel syndrome.

As for treatment, she said, antifungal medications often help, though some people respond to a low-carb diet alone. Some doctors also try probiotics, Cordell said.

This post originally appeared on WebMD.