A New York judge has dismissed a drunk driving charge against a woman who took steps to prove her body works as a brewery, using excess intestinal yeast to turn ordinary food into alcohol, resulting in breathalyzer readouts that generally would indicate life-threatening intoxication.
The excuse may sound bogus, but The Buffalo News reports elected Hamburg town Judge Walter Rooth found the woman’s claim compelling after she spent $7,000 working with a specialist to show her body sometimes meets the legal definition of drunkenness without actual alcohol intake.
“I would say it is not safe to drive a car if you are in an auto brewery syndrome flare,” Dr. Anup Kanodia of Ohio, an auto-brewery syndrome expert who monitored and tested the woman, told the News. “But it’s a brand new disease and we’re still trying to understand it.”
Kanodia told the paper, which did not name the woman, that he believes between 50 and 100 people have been diagnosed with the disorder, and that it’s likely upward of 95 percent of sufferers don’t know they have the condition.
Rooth dismissed the charges Dec. 9, but his decision has been slow to attract news coverage. The local prosecutor’s office plans to appeal Rooth’s decision, The News reports.
Spokespeople for the judge and the head of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office’s drunk driving division did not immediately return U.S. News requests for comment.
Flare-ups of Auto-Brewery Syndrome evidently are triggered in part by diets high in carbohydrates. Kanodia said he advised the woman to eat differently, alleviating her symptoms.
Though not widely known, the syndrome is beginning to attract media attention, with sufferers reporting bouts of goofiness after eating french fries and false accusations of alcoholism.
The BBC reported earlier this year that the condition may be connected to long-term antibiotic use and in at least two other cases appears to have been treated successfully with anti-fungal drugs and reduced consumption of carbohydrates and sugar.
The New York woman who shed — at least temporarily — her drunk driving charge is a 35-year-old teacher. Last year, she was arrested after a 911 tipster reported she was weaving. She reportedly was found driving on a flat tire with “glassy-bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.” She said she had three cocktails, but a breathalyzer found her blood alcohol content was .33 percent.
“Her tire was flat, and she felt she was close enough to home that she could drive the rest of the way,” the woman’s attorney, Joseph Marusak, told The News. “She can register a blood alcohol content that would have you or I falling down drunk, but she can function.”
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