- Woman in upstate New York was charged with DUI hours after her last drink
- She discovered she has rare condition where body brews its own alcohol, her attorney says
- Attorney says ran test to show that woman's blood alcohol level rose even when she wasn't drinking
(CNN)Imagine being charged with a DUI when it's been hours since you've had a drink, only to later discover that your body brews its own alcohol.
That's what happened to an upstate New York woman when she blew a blood alcohol level more than four times the legal limit. Just before Christmas in Hamburg, New York, a judge dismissed the charges after being presented with evidence the woman suffers from "auto-brewery syndrome."
"I had never heard of auto-brewery syndrome before this case," attorney Joseph Marusak told CNN on the condition his client's identity remain anonymous. "But I knew something was amiss when the hospital police took the woman to wanted to release her immediately because she wasn't exhibiting any symptoms."
"That prompts me to get on the Internet and see if there is any sort of explanation for a weird reading," adds Marusak. "Up pops auto-brewery syndrome and away we go."
"I'm in touch with about 30 people who believe they have this same syndrome, about 10 of them are diagnosed with it," said Panola College Dean of Nursing Barbara Cordell, who has studied the syndrome for years. "They can function at alcohol levels such as 0.30 and 0.40 when the average person would be comatose or dying. Part of the mystery of this syndrome is how they can have these extremely high levels and still be walking around and talking."
Extremely rare condition
Also known as gut-fermentation syndrome, this rare medical condition can occur when abnormal amounts of gastrointestinal yeast convert common food carbohydrates into ethanol. The 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.