Drivers across Massachusetts and the United States who insist they did not consume any alcohol after being pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving are often met with skepticism, particularly if they promptly fail breath tests soon thereafter. However, U.S. News & World Report notes that increasingly widespread awareness and knowledge about a rare condition known as auto-brewery syndrome suggests that at least some of those motorists may be telling the truth.
While there is still much to be learned about the condition, one leading Ohio physician who specializes in studying and treating it reports he diagnosed 25 patients with the syndrome within the last four or so years. Essentially, the syndrome causes those affected to produce an overabundance of yeast within their bodies, which can then ferment when mixed with high-carbohydrate foods. The fermentation then leads the sufferer to become drunk, even if he or she consumed no alcohol whatsoever, and this is raising new issues for those responsible for defending and prosecuting suspected drunk drivers.
Some of the concern surrounds the potential for the syndrome to be used as an excuse for drunk driving by those who do not genuinely have it. Because little is still known about it, the physician attests that more legitimate research is needed to prevent it from becoming an overused explanation for bad behavior.
Despite the lack of broad knowledge about the condition, National Public Radio reports that some researchers found evidence of auto-brewery syndrome in Japan dating as far back as the 1970s. Most people who consume the yeast that has the potential to cause fermentation can quickly expel it through their bodies. Others, however, such as those with certain illnesses or those taking considerable amounts of antibiotics, are unable to do so, which can ultimately lead them to produce alcohol within their own bodies.