Woman who visited A&E seven times and was 3.5 times UK drink-drive limit - was drunk on her own gut bacteria

3 June 2024, 14:33 | Updated: 3 June 2024, 14:44

The woman presented at hospital with slurred speech and extreme tiredness, only to be discharged with a diagnosis of being drunk - despite saying she had not been drinking.
The woman presented at hospital with slurred speech and extreme tiredness, only to be discharged with a diagnosis of being drunk - despite saying she had not been drinking. Picture: Alamy

By Lauren Lewis

A woman who visited A&E seven times and was 3.5 times the UK drink-drive limit was drunk on her own gut bacteria.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The 50-year-old had a rare condition called auto-brewery syndrome which gave her the appearance of being intoxicated.

She presented at hospital with slurred speech and extreme tiredness, only to be discharged with a diagnosis of being drunk - despite saying she had not been drinking.

Blood tests showed her alcohol level was about 285mg per 100ml, around 3.5 times the UK drink-drive limit, the Telegraph reports.

Auto-brewery syndrome sees fungi in the gut create alcohol through fermentation.

Researchers say awareness of this syndrome - which has social, legal, and medical consequences - is essential for proper diagnosis and management.

Read more: ‘We have an immigrant on the premises’: Pub landlord who took in migrant pleads for authorities to wake up and help

Over two years the woman visited the emergency department complaining of extreme daytime sleepiness and slurred speech.

She had been on several antibiotic courses for recurrent urinary tract infections alongside a proton pump inhibitor to reduce the amount of acid in her stomach.

Despite not drinking alcohol, she also had elevated blood alcohol levels and alcohol on her breath.

After each hospital visit the woman was discharged with the diagnosis of alcohol intoxication, despite her reports of no alcohol intake, which her family confirmed.

The patient needed up to two weeks off work after each episode and during this time she ate very little.

Her symptoms would get better after one to two weeks, but would return every one to two months.

Read more: Brit tourists to be hit with £170 fine for buying from unlicensed beach sellers in new crackdown

On the third visit, the mother was even certificated under the Mental Health Act, as the doctor had concerns for self-neglect when she discharged herself before psychiatric assessment.

However, at her seventh visit the emergency doctor considered a diagnosis of auto-brewery syndrome, and after being prescribed some medication, she was referred to a specialist.

A dietitian suggested a low-carbohydrate diet, and after completing a one month course of an antifungal medication and the diet, the woman's symptoms went away and remained absent for four months.

The woman slowly started to eat carbohydrates again, but one month after doing this she had a recurrence of slurred speech and drowsiness, which led to a fall.

She was advised to restart the low-carbohydrate diet again, and her symptoms resolved.

Writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr Rahel Zewude, University of Toronto, and her co-authors, said: "Auto-brewery syndrome carries substantial social, legal, and medical consequences for patients and their loved ones. "Our patient had several (emergency department) visits, was assessed by internists and psychiatrists, and was certified under the Mental Health Act before receiving a diagnosis of auto-brewery syndrome, reinforcing how awareness of this syndrome is essential for clinical diagnosis and management."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Kate's big comeback: Princess and William share tender moment as she re-joins royals at Trooping the Colour

Kate's big comeback: Princess and William share tender moment as she re-joins royals at Trooping the Colour

The attack, which took place in a garden east Germany on Friday night, saw the knifeman stab four people before police arrived at the scene.

German police shoot dead knifeman at Euro 2024 party after rampage leaves one dead and three injured

Businessman sues Apple after wife finds ‘deleted’ iPhone messages to prostitute

Businessman sues Apple after wife finds ‘deleted’ iPhone messages to prostitute

Olympic cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins is bankrupt, homeless and has "lost absolutely everything", according to his lawyer.

Olympic cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins has 'lost absolutely everything' as star faces selling medals following bankruptcy

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer promises no capital gains tax on sales of homes as he dismisses tax hike claims

Home Secretary calls for 'urgent investigation' after shock footage emerges of police ramming escaped cow

Home Secretary calls for 'urgent investigation' after shock footage emerges of police ramming escaped cow

Eight Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza - as Palestinian death toll reaches '37,000'

Eight Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack since January

Prince Louis steals the show as he dances along to bagpipes at Trooping the Colour

Prince Louis steals the show as he dances along to bagpipes on Buckingham Palace balcony

Coventry's Radford Road, where the schoolboy was killed

Schoolboy killed in hit and run as police urgently look for driver

Police rammed the cow

Shock as police ram escaped cow on the street, as officers say it 'was hurt while being moved to safety'

Exclusive
c

Angela Rayner condemns 'intimidation' of Labour's Rosie Duffield after she cancels hustings amid 'trolling and spite'

Kate and the royals came out on the Buckingham Palace balcony for the flypast

Kate joins King Charles and other royals on Buckingham Palace balcony for RAF flypast after Trooping the Colour

Exclusive
Ben Habib has hit back at suggestions Nigel Farage could join the Conservative party

Reform deputy hits back at suggestion Nigel Farage could join Tories, after leader tells LBC he could lead merged party

Olympic rings on the Eiffel Tower in Paris

IOC gives 14 Russians and 11 Belarusians neutral status for Paris Olympics

The ride got stuck upside down

Horrifying moment people get stuck upside down on theme park ride, as dozens have to be rescued

David Cameron and Nigel Farage

David Cameron says Nigel Farage is trying to destroy the Conservative Party through Reform UK