A woman who blew a blood alcohol level four times the legal limit, had her charges dismissed by the judge after he heard evidence that her gut ferments alcohol from food. The condition is called “auto-brewery syndrome.”
The rare medical syndrome can occur when abnormal amounts of gastrointestinal yeast converts carbohydrates from food into ethanol.
As reported by CNN Health, the lawyer for a woman in Hamburg, New York, was able to show that his client (who wishes to remain anonymous) suffers from the condition which is also called “gut-fermentation syndrome.”
“I had never heard of auto-brewery syndrome before this case,” attorney Joseph Marusak said. The lawyer knew something was wrong when the hospital wanted to immediately release her because she did not have any symptoms. “That prompts me to get on the Internet and see if there is any sort of explanation for a weird reading,” Marusak said. “Up pops auto-brewery syndrome and away we go.”
Marusak said his client drank “four drinks between noon and 6 p.m., less than one drink an hour.”
The lawyer hired a pharmacologist who said a woman of her size and weight who consumed that amount of drinks within that time frame, should have blood alcohol levels between 0.01 and 0.05 – a number beneath the 0.08 level in New York state for being legally impaired.
His client was driving home and had a flat tire and someone reported her as having had an accident.
She blew a blood alcohol level of almost 0.40 and she was taken to the hospital because that level is life-threatening.
Her husband asked that more tests be run when the hospital said they were going to release her because she was not exhibiting any symptoms of drunkenness. The test results showed a blood alcohol level of 0.30 many hours after she had her last drink.
Marusak hired two physician assistants and a person who was trained in Breathalyzers to watch his client and take blood alcohol levels over a 12-hour period. He used the same lab the prosecution uses to test her blood. Her blood level was twice the legal limit at 9:15 a.m., triple the limit at 6 p.m., and more than four times the legal limit at 8:30 p.m. he told CNN. His client did not exhibit any symptoms until her blood levels reached between 0.30 and 0.40.
Although the judge dismissed the case against Marusak’s client, prosecutors may appeal the judge’s decision.
Marusak’s client is now treating her condition with anti-fungal medications, and a yeast-free diet.
Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2