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Stomach brewery stuns US doctors

A 61-year-old man in Texas has stunned medical experts in the US, after they discovered he was making his own home brew – in his stomach.

The man spoke to nurses in the casualty department at his local hospital after complaining that he felt dizzy. The nurses gave the man a breathalyser test and he blew 0.37%, which is nearly five times the legal limit, but the man insisted that he had not consumed any alcohol.

US website NPR reported that doctors still thought the man was a “closet drinker” despite his claims to be alcohol-free. The man’s wife told doctors that she was so concerned with her husband’s constantly drunk condition that she would regularly test him with a breathalyser.

Barbara Cordell, the dean of nursing at Panola College in Carthage, Texas, told NPR: “He would get drunk out of the blue — on a Sunday morning after being at church, or really, just anytime.”

So Cordell, along with Dr Justin McCarthy, decided to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. They isolated the patient for 24 hours, making sure no sugar or alcohol was available to him and continually checked his blood alcohol levels. Even without any alcohol consumption the man’s levels were still as high as 0.12%, the legal driving limit in the US is 0.08%.

The team then realised that the patient must have been infected with high levels of yeast, and that his stomach contained so much yeast that he was making his own in-house brew.

The medics suspected that because the patient had been put on antibiotics following surgery for a broken foot in 2004, the medications might have killed all his gut bacteria. This allowed the yeast to thrive in his body.

After diagnosing the condition the medics discovered that the man ate a lot of carbohydrates. That meant each time the patient ate something with starch, the high amounts of yeast in his body turned the sugars into ethanol or ethyl alcohol, which made him drunk from the inside.

To cure his illness, the patient was placed on a low-carbohydrate diet and prescribed antifungal medication to get rid of the excess yeast.

Details of the case were recently published in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine, where authors wrote: “This is a rare syndrome but should be recognized because of the social implications such as loss of job, relationship difficulties, stigma, and even possible arrest and incarceration. It would behoove health care providers to listen more carefully to the intoxicated patient who denies ingesting alcohol.”

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