(TMU) — When some men begin to reach their middle age, they commonly like to take up new hobbies—like home brewing, for example, which allows 40- and 50-somethings to unlock their creativity as they produce copious amounts of amateur craft-brew. Other men, who may suffer emotional and psychological damage, may simply reach for the bottle and drink their days away.
But for one 46-year-old man, his life became a living hell of constant drunkenness after he developed an extremely rare condition known as “auto-brewery syndrome,” which is more colloquially known as “drunkenness disease,” after completing a round of antibiotics, New Scientist reports.
The normally healthy U.S. resident had a clean medical and psychiatric history and wasn’t much of a drinker, mainly imbibing of alcohol during the rare social occasion. However, in 2011 he began to display all of the symptoms of a souse—including mental fogginess, depression, forgetfulness and aggressive behavior—to the point where he eventually had to give up his job.
The changes occurred right after he finished taking antibiotics for an injury to his thumb, doctors from Richmond University Medical Center wrote in the report published in BMJ Open Gastroenterology.
The changes were completely out of the norm for the man, who even tried antidepressants in 2014 on the suggestion of a psychiatrist, to no avail.
Things took a drastic turn for the worse when the man was arrested on allegations that he was driving under the influence. When police tried to administer a breathalyzer test, the man adamantly refused and was taken to a hospital. Hospital workers then found that his blood-alcohol level had reached a staggering 200 mg/dL—the level typical of someone who had just consumed 10 or more alcoholic beverages.
Auto-brewery syndrome can cause people with it to get drunk simply after eating a lot of carbohydrates. In typical (but again, rare) cases, an excessive amount of gastrointestinal yeast will convert all those sugars and starches into ethanol 🍺🥴👇🏾 https://t.co/nYbHEYrRBh
— Dr Ahmed Kalebi (@DrAhmedKalebi) October 21, 2019
The man further insisted that he hadn’t drunk anything that morning, but the report noted:
“[H]ospital personnel and police refused to believe him when he repeatedly denied alcohol ingestion.”
Following the humiliating arrest, the man sought treatment. At a clinic in Ohio, doctors found that he had been infected with the common yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is used in winemaking, baking, and beer brewing. Whenever the man ate carbohydrates or a meal rich in starch, the yeast simply fermented along with the sugars, transforming it into ethanol.
The man was basically brewing a strong alcoholic beverage in his gut.
After a bit of treatment at the clinic, the man’s symptoms improved. A few weeks later, however, he suffered an auto-brewery symptom flare-up that hospitalized him after he fell, causing him to bleed inside his brain.
Again, the man had to face the humiliation of being suspected as another hapless drunkard. The researchers wrote:
“Here too, the medical staff refused to believe that he did not drink alcohol despite his persistent denials.”
The man eventually found his salvation when he linked up with physicians at the Richmond University Medical Center, where he was rigorously tested and given a range of treatments including an anti-fungal regime. However, he fell into a “severe ABS relapse” after eating pizza and drinking soda once.
According to the report, the man is now able to process carbohydrates after gradually reintroducing them back into his diet. The report notes that he “remains asymptomatic and has resumed his previous lifestyle, including eating a normal diet while still checking his breath alcohol levels sporadically.”
And as it turns out, the main culprit for his ABS may have been the antibiotic medication, cephalexin, which he used to treat himself and which, in turn, “resulted in a change in his gastrointestinal microbiome allowing fungal overgrowth.”
Dr. Fahad Malik, one of the report’s authors and a chief medical resident at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told New Scientist:
“For years, no one believed him.
The police, doctors, nurses and even his family told him he wasn’t telling the truth, that he must be a closet-drinker.”
This isn’t the first time someone has been reported to have the rare disease. In 2013, a 61-year-old man from Texas was found to be suffering from the same condition after he staggered into a hospital with a blood alcohol level of .37.
A similar case of ABS occurred this past September in China after doctors found an abundance of the microbe Klebsiella pneumoniae in a patient’s gut, which led the man to develop a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that “severely” damaged his liver.
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