Imagine having a rare disease that makes you drunk without having any alcohol in your system. This is called auto-brewery syndrome. A new study of a Chinese patient with this same condition shows just how serious this disease is and how it can affect major organs in the process.

The Symptoms of Auto-Brewery Syndrome

Auto brewery syndrome, also known as “drunkenness disease” occurs when your body turns sugary and starchy foods into alcohol. It can make you appear very drunk without drinking any alcohol or only a small amount. You could experience the same symptoms that you would with being slightly drunk or a hangover like nausea and vomiting, headaches, disorientation, dizziness, mood changes, fatigue, memory and concentration problems, etc. This occurs because your body brews ethanol from the carbs you eat. This may occur because there is too much yeast in your gut biome.

New Case Study

In the medical journal Cell Metabolism, researchers did a study of a Chinese man who had severe liver damage as a result of the auto-brewery syndrome. In this case, there was no yeast found in his gut. His gut instead had several strains of bacteria called Klebsiella pneumonia. This bacteria contains high levels of alcohol. The strains cause 4-6 times more alcohol than strains found in healthy people. The research team also sampled gut bacteria from 43 patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and 48 healthy patients. 60% of patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease had high and medium alcohol-producing Klebsiella pneumonia in their gut while 6% of healthy patients had these strains. 

When your body is not able to break down the alcohol produced by the bacteria, you can develop fatty liver disease even when you do not drink. To confirm this is true, the team fed the bacteria extracted from the Chinese patient to healthy mice. In one month, the mice developed fatty liver disease. After two months, their health was in danger. When treated with the Klebsiella pneumonia-killing antibiotic, the results showed promise. While it may not be clear why some develop high-alcohol-producing Klebsiella pneumonia, this study shows that we can treat fatty liver disease early. The team intends to find out what factors make you more susceptible to these strains. This study also shows just how much in jeopardy your liver is with a large amount of ethanol in your system.

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