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What you need to know about auto-brewery syndrome

Knowingly driving drunk is not a good idea, but some DUI charges may be inaccurate. Many people know that breath analyzers are not always correct, but a lesser-known cause for false DUI accusations has recently come to light: auto-brewery syndrome.

This condition recently gained national attention as more and more cases of unexplained drunkenness have been attributed to some people's ability to internally create alcohol. Here is everything you need to know about this syndrome and how it can affect you and your ability to safely navigate the road.

What is it?

CNN reports that auto-brewery syndrome is a condition in which an overgrowth of yeast causes the gut to become a brewery. It may sound like fiction, but what happens is pure science.

A person can develop an abundance of the bacteria Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or brewer's yeast, in the gut because of a weakened immune system or a lack of good bacteria due to antibiotics. Once the yeast has become established, it begins the brewing process. As the person eats sugars and starches, including alcohol, the bacteria ferment the carbs and create ethanol, the same form of alcohol used in drinks to cause intoxication.

Since this is all happening internally, the individual is usually not aware of the process until they take a blood alcohol test.

Some examples

While rare cases have been reported over the past century, recent findings have allowed researchers to more accurately determine what is causing this phenomenon.

One case involved a woman in New York who was taken to the hospital after her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) showed a level of 0.4 percent, a number that is often life threatening. Nurses released her shortly after when it was apparent that she had no symptoms, despite another test showing her levels had only decreased slightly to 0.3 percent.

Researchers monitored he woman for 12 hours. During the time period, she was not allowed to have any alcohol and had her blood drawn periodically. By the evening, her BAC was over 0.3 percent simply from the foods she ate. Once researchers proved that she had the condition, a judge dismissed her case.

NPR reports that another man in Texas experienced the same issue after checking into the emergency room for dizziness. A 24-hour observation revealed that his BAC levels were 1.5 times the legal limit without a single drink.

If you feel that you may have auto-brewery syndrome and have been wrongly accused of a DUI, an attorney can help. Contact an experienced lawyer today for help determining if this may be a factor in your case.

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