US woman's bladder produces alcohol in rare medical condition: Study

The woman suffers from liver damage and poorly-managed diabetes and is on a transplant list

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 26 February 2020
The woman denied consuming alcohol and showed no signs of intoxication Photo: Air Force Medical Service

A 61-year-old United States woman has so much yeast in her body that alcohol is produced due to its fermentation and accumulates in her bladder. The woman is the first documented living person to have such a rare medical condition, according to a study published on February 25, 2020. Incidentally, she also had liver damage and poorly-managed diabetes and was on a transplant waitlist.

“Initially, our encounters (with her) were similar, leading our clinicians to believe that she was hiding an alcohol use disorder,” doctors were quoted as saying in the study.

The woman however denied consuming alcohol and showed no signs of intoxication during her visits to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre Presbyterian Hospital.

But her urine samples showed high levels of ethanol content and large amounts of glucose. The samples also showed significant levels of budding yeast.

"These findings led us to test whether yeast colonising in the bladder could ferment sugar to produce ethanol," researchers noted.

The high levels of ethanol production meant that yeast fermented sugar in her bladder. The yeast in question — Candida glabrata — is not usually found in abundance inside the human body.

Attempts to remove the yeast from the woman’s bladder were unsuccessful, possibly due to the presence of diabetes.

Doctors ultimately reconsidered the woman’s plea for a liver transplant. However, the study does not make clear what happened to the woman.

There could be other patients with the same rare condition — doctors noted — adding that a similar case was discovered in only one post-mortem case, according to the study.

"The experience we describe here of two liver transplant teams at different institutions demonstrates how easy it is to overlook signals that urinary auto-brewery syndrome may be present," said doctors.

Researchers proposed naming the condition either ‘bladder fermentation syndrome’ or ‘urinary auto-brewery syndrome’.

The study was carried by medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

A similarly rare condition had been earlier recorded of a man who became inebriated by simply consuming carbohydrates, without consuming alcohol.

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