This week in weird news: A 61-year-old man from Carthage, TX has been involuntarily brewing beer in his gut. How does someone do this, you ask? The man was infected with Saccharomyces cerevisiae (also known as brewer’s yeast), so when he ate or drank starch—which can be found in food like bagels and soda—the yeast in his stomach would convert the sugar into Ethanol, and the man would get drunk. According to NPR, the case of “auto-brewery syndrome” was reported a few months ago in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine.
Saccharomyces can be found in many foods most of us consume regularly, including bread, beer, and wine. Usually, the bacteria doesn’t do us any harm—they just flow right through us. NPR points out that some people even take Saccharomyces as a probiotic supplement. But in rare cases, the yeasty critters can take up long-term residency in the gut and potentially cause problems.
NPR dug up other reports on auto-brewery syndrome and found multiple cases similar to the one in Texas, including a report in Japan from the 1970s. But these cases occurred after a person took antibiotics, or had an immune deficiency. Still, what we can take away from this story is that human beings have been brewing beer in their stomachs for decades.
While brewing beer in your gut and getting involuntarily drunk may sound cool to some of us, it was quite a nuisance for the Texas man and his wife. When the man stumbled into a Texas emergency room complaining of dizziness, it was discovered that his blood alcohol concentration was a dangerous 0.37 percent, although he claimed he hadn’t touched alcohol that day.
“He would get drunk out of the blue—on a Sunday morning after being at church, or really, just anytime,” the dean of nursing at the hospital told NPR. It took various tests and a lot of time before the doctors determined this wasn’t a case of closet drinking, but actually a case of auto-brewery syndrome.
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