For drivers in California, flashing red lights in the rearview mirror is one of the least welcome sights, especially for those who have been drinking. DUI citations can lead to a loss of privileges, opportunities and income, and are a big incentive for motorists to avoid driving drunk. While most people refrain from drinking too much alcohol to avoid the consequences of intoxication, there are some who find this unavoidable and have been cited for multiple DUIs. CNN reports that new studies are shedding light on a condition called auto-brewery syndrome, in which a person’s gut acts as an internal brewery and can cause a raised blood alcohol level simply from the foods that have been eaten.
While the discovery is still new, scientists have discovered that patients with this disease usually have an overabundance of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or brewer’s yeast, in their intestines. The overgrowth may occur after a round of antibiotics kills off good bacteria and allows the yeast to grow unchecked, or it may have another unknown culprit.
As the patient ingests sugars, alcohol or bread products, the yeast ferments the starches to create ethanol. This is the same type of alcohol that is found in beer, wine and other drinks and can lead to the same levels of intoxication.
One woman was monitored for 12 hours and researchers discovered that her BAC rose to over 0.3 percent simply from the foods she ate. After discovering this, her DUI case was dismissed by the judge. NPR reports that another man was watched for 24 hours and reached a blood alcohol concentration of 0.12 percent without a single drink.