Recent studies claim that a rare condition, auto-brewer’s syndrome, may cause people to fail BAC tests even if they have not consumed alcohol.
There is a bizarre and rare medical condition called auto-brewery syndrome, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, which causes your body to produce alcohol under certain circumstances even if you have not knowingly consumed any alcohol. If you are driving and suffer from this rare and bizarre affliction and get pulled over by the police, you could fail a breathalyzer test and potentially face criminal consequences. There may be a defense if you were totally unaware of the medical condition and had not knowingly consumed any alcohol. The University of New York's sociology department indicates that certain people may fail breathalyzer test without having had a single alcoholic beverage. For people in this situation, this rare condition known as auto-brewery syndrome may be the culprit.
Understanding auto-brewery syndrome
Within the lower intestine are small organisms called saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer's yeast), which help in the digestive process. Most of the time, this yeast is harmless, but in rare instances, too much of it accumulates. The yeast converts carbohydrates into ethanol, and when there is a large abundance of the yeast, more ethanol is produced. The excess of this ethanol then results in high blood alcohol content levels without the consumption of alcohol.
An NPR story discusses a 2013 case study which highlighted the experience of a 61-year-old male. The man was seen in a Texas emergency room after becoming dizzy and registered 0.37 on a hospital conducted breathalyzer test even though he had not been drinking. Through additional research and monitoring by medical professionals, it was discovered that he had an abundance of brewer's yeast in his gut. It is suspected that he inhaled the yeast while making his own beer at home. As a result, his BAC would jump after he ate a starchy food like soda or pasta, and he would exhibit behaviors associated with drunkenness.
In a more recent DWI case, CNN Health reports that the charges against a woman with a nearly 0.40 BAC were dismissed after medical tests pointed to auto-brewery syndrome. While in this case, she did not display any outward signs of drinking other than some wobbliness, further tests showed a BAC of .30 hours after the initial stop, even though she had not touched alcohol during that time.
Diagnosis and treatment
Based on the limited information available, diagnosing auto-brewery syndrome involves a variety of medical tests and in some cases hospital observation. However, an article in Latinos Health advises that some treatment success has been achieved with anti-fungal medications, avoidance of yeasts and alcohol, and the implementation of eating habits that replace consumption of sugar and carbohydrates with high-protein, high-vegetable diets.
Even though research suggests that those who suffer from auto-brewery syndrome may have a higher tolerance to alcohol, it remains unwise to operate a motor vehicle in any intoxicated state. In California DUI cases, consulting with an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible, can help you achieve the best resolution possible and explore all possible defenses.