A judge in Upstate New York recently dismissed a case against a 35 year old school teacher, and Hamburg resident (whose name has not been released) for an aggravated driving while intoxicated charge. But it’s not the charges against her that has everyone talking.
According to the Buffalo News, the 35 year old defendant has a rare and unusual disorder called auto brewery syndrome, a disorder in which an excess of intestinal yeast causes ingested food and drinks to ferment in the body and turn into alcohol.
The 35 years old school teacher was pulled over last year after reports of erratic driving. While she said she had consumed three drinks earlier that day, the results of her breathalyzer indicated she may have had more than just three drinks with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .33 percent, that’s more than 4 times the legal limit of .08 percent.
Her attorney says this is the strangest case he’s been involved in. Because his client was facing aggravated DWI charges, her attorney decided he needed to do his own investigation. He said he searched the Internet to see if he could find a medical explanation for what happened to his client, and because the amount she drank would not be able to account for the near .33 percent BAC his client was charged with. He found a researcher, Dr. Barbara Cordell, who published medical studies on “Auto-Brewery Syndrome.” Cordell advised him to contact Dr. Anup Kanodia, a physician near Columbus, Ohio, who in the past has treated people for the syndrome. Her attorney sent his client to Columbus to be examined by Kanodia and also arranged to conduct tests in Buffalo.
Her attorney said, his client used a Breathalyzer device to check her own BAC on 18 separate occasions, when she was not drinking. Almost every time, her BAC was measured at a level above the state’s legal limit of .08 percent, usually at .20 percent or higher.
With these tests, she was eventually diagnosed with a rare disorder called auto brewery syndrome. People with this syndrome have unusually high levels of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, also more commonly known as brewer’s yeast.
The diagnosis is believed to be among the first in Western New York, if not the entire state.
Her attorney said, essentially, her digestive system has so much yeast that it functions like a “brewery,” “It’s also known as gut fermentation syndrome.”
It’s said that only 50 to 100 people have been diagnosed with auto brewery syndrome because it’s so rarely reported. And only about 95 percent of people who suffer from this disorder don’t even know they have it. With these findings, Judge Walter L. Rooth was convinced that auto brewery syndrome was the cause of her erratic driving, and the charges were dismissed.
The Erie County District Attorney’s office plans on appealing the judge’s decision.
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