September 20, 2013 9:42 am
What if your husband just got drunk on a moment’s notice? No liquor required—he just started stumbling around and slurring his words. Maybe it happened in the middle of church. Maybe at breakfast. This sounds like a plot from a story, but it actually happened to a 61-year-old man in Texas recently.
NPR reports that the man “stumbled into a Texas emergency room complaining of dizziness” and, when Breathalyzed, scored a 0.37 percent. That’s five times the legal driving limit in Texas. But he hadn’t had a drink.
Of course, at first nobody believed him: the simplest explanation was that he was drinking when nobody was looking. So doctors put him in an isolated room for 24 hours, watching his blood alcohol level. Sure enough, without a drink, the alcohol level in his blood rose 0.12 percent. Turns out the man’s own stomach, colonized by brewer’s yeast, was brewing beer—a condition doctors call “auto-brewery syndrome.” The doctors described the case in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine:
Gut Fermentation Syndrome also known as Auto-Brewery Syndrome is a relatively unknown phenomenon in modern medicine. Very few articles have been written on the syndrome and most of them are anecdotal. This article presents a case study of a 61 years old male with a well documented case of Gut Fermentation Syndrome verified with glucose and carbohydrate challenges. Stool cultures demonstrated the causative organism as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The patient was treated with antifungals and a low carbohydrate diet and the syndrome resolved. Helicobacter pylori was also found and could have been a possible confounding variable although the symptoms resolved post-treatment of the S. cerevisiae.
Of course, this is just one guy, and researchers don’t really know whether auto-brewery syndrome is common or even caused by a single thing. But at least this one guy is a cheap date.
More from Smithsonian.com:
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.