Auto-Brewery Syndrome

The Auto-Brewery Syndrome is a rare medical condition in which the patient has not touched a drop of alcoholic beverage but still intoxication quantities of alcohol are measured. This alcohol is being produced within the body itself through fermentation in the digestive system. This fermentation is caused by an overabundance of brewer's yeast in the gut.
The Auto-Brewery Syndrome is in most known cases an infection with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, better known as brewer’s yeast but other yeasts, such as Candida albicans, Candida tropicalis or Torulopsis glabrata[1], are also known to cause these problems. When a patient eats or drinks starchy foods, like pasta or even a soft drink, the yeast ferments the sugars into ethanol and the patient would get drunk.

Brewer's yeast is in a whole host of foods, including breads, wine and - of course - beer, and normally it does not cause any problem. In rare cases, though, the yeast can infest the gut and cause Auto-Brewery Syndrome.

[1] Bivin et al: Production of ethanol from infant food formulas by common yeasts in Journal of Applied Bacterial Biology - 1985

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