Gut fermentation syndrome or auto brewery syndrome is a unique condition in which people’s bodies essentially ferment alcohol, resulting in positive tests for intoxication.
In December of 2015, a woman with a flat tire was stopped by an officer in New York. CNN reports that during the stop she was asked to submit to a breath test to check for intoxication. The results were rather startling as they showed her to be over the state's legal limit of 0.08 percent for intoxication not just a little bit but by more than four times.
Due to the extremely dangerous level of her blood alcohol content, she was taken to a hospital instead of to a jail. However, after realizing that she displayed no symptoms of being drunk at all, the hospital released her. With many things not seeming to make sense, her attorney pursued additional testing over the course of 12 hours.
At the beginning of the test period, when it was known she had not consumed any alcohol at all, her BAC was roughly twice the legal limit. Nine hours later, it was about three times the legal limit. Her BAC continued to climb for the next couple of hours until it reached a point similar to when she had been arrested. Interestingly enough, this was basically the same time of night as when she was arrested.
Doctors diagnosed her with a condition known as auto brewery syndrome, also known as gut fermentation syndrome. This led the judge to dismiss her DUI charges.
Is auto brewery syndrome real?
According to Medical Bag, auto brewery syndrome is indeed a real and recognized medical condition, albeit a rare one. The New York case is not the only one known in the United States. National Public Radio tells of a 61-year-old Texas man with the same condition. His disease was first investigated when he went to the emergency room because he was dizzy.
Despite tests showing his BAC levels at 0.37 percent, he insisted that he had had even so much as one drink. Doctors and even his wife suspected he was hiding his drinking and his wife even bought a unit to test his BAC levels at home. Hospital testing showed a dramatic spike in the amount of alcohol in his blood after eating starch-rich foods. This led to the discovery of his auto brewery syndrome.
For the Texas man, it was the use of antibiotics several years prior that had wiped his system of necessary bacteria. This allowed the brewer's yeast to take hold and grow in his intestines. When activated by carbohydrates, it fermented and created alcohol in his body.
Treatment may involve the use of antifungal medications, acidopholus and a restricted diet.
An arrest does not always guarantee a conviction
While auto brewery syndrome is rare, the New York case illustrates the importance of a good defense team for people arrested on drunk driving charges. Not every arrest can, should or does lead to a conviction. Anyone facing such charges should contact an attorney for help.