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Auto-Brewery Syndrome Causes Woman To Have A BAC Quadruple The Legal Limit

Posted by Aaron J. Wolff | Jan 03, 2017 | 0 Comments

If suspected drunk driver takes a breath test and the results show that driver's BAC to nearly .40%, then it should be an open shut case. A blood alcohol content that high is so dangerous it is considered life-threatening, according to CNN. Clearly, the driver must be intoxicated. But what if it's not that simple? For one woman in New York, it wasn't alcohol that was the source of her high blood alcohol content, but rather a rare medical condition.

CNN and other news outlets reported on this unusual case just after the start of 2016. The woman at the center of the case had no she idea she suffered from this condition on the day that she was arrested and charged with a DUI. She went to a restaurant with her husband prior to getting behind the wheel, but had only four drinks over a six hour period. According to her attorney, a pharmacologist that he hired had said a "'a woman of her size and weight having four drinks in that period of time should be between 0.01 and 0.05 blood alcohol levels.'" So how was it possible that when she was pulled over a short while later her BAC was well beyond this estimated range?

As it turns out the woman suffers from a medical rare condition known as auto-brewery syndrome. This condition, also known as gut-fermentation syndrome, "can occur when abnormal amounts of gastrointestinal yeast convert common food carbohydrates into ethanol." According to CNN, "[t]he process is believed to take place in the small bowel and is vastly different from the normal gut fermentation in the large bowel that gives our bodies energy."

The police had taken the woman to the hospital because she had such a high BAC level, but the hospital had recommended her release because she was not showing any signs that she was intoxicated. Her husband requested that she be tested again. The results again showed her BAC levels to be extremely high, this time at .30%. Her attorney had her go through a series of blood tests over a twelve hour period and the results of the test showed that her BAC was already "'double the legal limit at 9:15 a.m.'" The levels then continued to rise as the day progressed.

After hearing evidence of the woman's auto-brewery syndrome, her charges were dismissed by a judge.

This woman is not the only person who suffers from this condition. In 2013, NPR reported on a Texas man who went into an emergency room because he was dizzy. Though he registered a BAC of .37, he stated that he hadn't had a drink all day. Like the woman from New York, he was found to have auto-brewery syndrome. When the man "ate or drank a bunch of starch — a bagel, pasta or even a soda — the yeast fermented the sugars into ethanol, and he would get drunk." The two individuals who helped the man find out that the source of his troubles was excessive yeast in his gut -- Barbara Cordell and Dr. Justin McCarthy -- later published a study on the case. According to the study, they were able to treat his condition with a series of medications.

If you or a loved one is arrested for driving under the influence, please do not hesitate to contact attorney Aaron Wolff today to discuss your case. His office can be reached at (425) 284-2000 or online

About the Author

Aaron J. Wolff

A former DUI prosecutor, Aaron Wolff has over 16 years of experience in representing people accused of DUI and is recognized as one of the leading defense lawyers in Washington State. His relentless and passionate advocacy has lead to superb ratings and outstanding reviews from former clients.

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