Doctors have diagnosed the very first case of a woman who pees alcohol after a shocking condition transformed her bladder into a brewery.
The case was published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, and the report revealed that the condition was discovered at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian Hospital. Doctors were screening a 61-year-old woman for placement on the liver transplant waitlist. The patient was diagnosed with diabetes and liver cirrhosis, conditions often correlated with alcoholism.
When the woman claimed she barely touched alcohol, doctors were initially unconvinced because her urine tests for alcohol came out positive again and again. As such, her clinicians recommended that she pursue treatment for alcohol abuse disorder. However, the patient insisted she had not had anything to drink.
To test her claims, doctors checked her urine test results for ethyl sulfate and ethyl glucuronide, substances derived from the breakdown of ethanol (alcohol). They were shocked to see the tests come back negative. Her blood tests for ethanol also came back negative, which meant the alcohol was not in her bloodstream, so she wasn’t technically intoxicated.
The extraordinary series of events led the doctors to do further tests on her pee. They found that the woman’s bladder had become overrun with Candida glabrata, a fungus which is part of normal human flora, but which is also related to brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).
The doctors took samples of the fungus and placed it in a petri dish under controlled conditions. When they monitored it for signs of fermentation, the sample produced alcohol.
The woman’s bladder had effectively been functioning like a microbrewery. To produce alcohol, you need sugar and water mixed with yeast and an absence of oxygen. The anaerobic (non-oxygenated) circumstances cause the yeast to ferment the sugars into ethanol and carbon dioxide. In this woman’s case, her pee was full of sugar due to her poorly controlled diabetes. Combined with the yeast that had settled in her bladder, the conditions were perfect for fermentation and the formulation of alcohol.
“I think the biggest reason for the patient to develop this condition is her poorly controlled diabetes because the bladder environment with high levels of glucose is definitely an optimal condition for the growth and activity of the yeast,” said Kenichi Tamama, author of the study and Associate Professor of Pathology.
The woman was diagnosed with a new case of “urinary auto-brewery syndrome” or “bladder fermentation syndrome.”
Although similar conditions have been recorded many times in the digestive system, the “auto-brewery” effect has never been detected in a bladder. Those afflicted with auto-brewery conditions sometimes report feeling “foggy-headed” and tipsy because the alcohol can filter into the bloodstream. They may also experience blackouts, loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting, and the impaired sensations alcohol intoxication is famous for.