Man whose stomach brewed beer is cured—by a poop transplant​

The human body is endlessly fascinating.

topless man holding six pack of beer
Photo: Chris Howey / Shutterstock
  • Last year, it was reported that a Belgian man arrested for drunk driving brewed the alcohol in his own gut.
  • The disorder, auto-brewery syndrome, occurred after he took a round of antibiotics.
  • He was cured after a fecal donation from his daughter.

Nearly a year ago, headlines across the web were dominated by a 46-year-old man that brewed his own beer. His artisanal approach was quite unique: his stomach fermented its own contents thanks to a rare disorder known as auto-brewery syndrome (ABS).

You can imagine his surprise when police pulled him over for erratic driving and found he was over double the legal alcohol limit. He hadn't had a drink all night. The fermenting bacteria produced ethanol in his gut, causing him to appear drunk. It's a terrible condition.

The syndrome was caused by a round of antibiotics. After experiencing these symptoms for two months, he needed help. Trusting a medical team's advice, he tried a burgeoning intervention for microbiome trouble: he received a poop transplant.

As with any form of transplant, there are risks. Most people need to match their blood donor. Organ transplants are tricky and result in long waiting lists. Getting someone else's fecal matter comes with its own potentially damaging side effects.

Fortunately it worked out, as the team behind the transplant writes in Annals of Internal Medicine. Based at Belgium's University Hospital Ghent, the team reports "what we believe is the first successful treatment of a patient with chronic gut fermentation syndrome by using fecal microbiota transplantation."

The man received the sample from his 22-year-old daughter. His blood ethanol levels, which were 17 times above normal, have returned to pre-syndrome levels. He even gets buzzed on beer now, at least when he chooses.

What is Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT)?

Fecal transplants, or bacteriotherapy, help replenish bacterial balance, especially when antibiotics kill too many "good" bacteria. The procedure is most often performed by colonoscopy, though sometimes a nasoduodenal tube is required. While there are a variety of tests needed before doctors will perform bacteriotherapy, fecal transplants actually date back at least 1,700 years to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Fecal transplants are most commonly performed to treat diseases caused by the bacteria, C. difficile. Over 15,000 people die every year from such diseases.

Researchers are constantly learning more about the incredible complexity and importance of the microbiome. Besides gut-related disorders, bacteriotherapy may soon be used to treat a variety of ailments, including obesity, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, hay fever, and eczema.

The doctors feel confident recommending this particular intervention. Treating ABS often involves changes in diet, probiotics, and drug therapy. Yet antibiotics have strange effects on the microbiome, and in this case, it was enough to make him resistant to the usual therapies.

The team in Belgium is hopeful they've found another avenue for treating ABS.

"Moreover, we can imagine a future point - after additional research to evaluate the safety of faecal microbiota transplantation - at which this approach might become standard therapy for gut fermentation syndrome."

--

Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter, Facebook and Substack. His next book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

How New York's largest hospital system is predicting COVID-19 spikes

Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.

Credit: Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
  • Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

3,000-pound Triceratops skull unearthed in South Dakota

"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.

Excavation of a triceratops skull in South Dakota.

Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
Surprising Science
  • The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
  • It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
  • Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Keep reading Show less

World's oldest work of art found in a hidden Indonesian valley

Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.

Pig painting at Leang Tedongnge in Indonesia, made at 45,500 years ago.

Credit: Maxime Aubert
Surprising Science
  • Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
  • The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
  • The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Keep reading Show less

What can Avicenna teach us about the mind-body problem?

The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.

Photo by Andrew Spencer on Unsplash
Mind & Brain
Philosophers of the Islamic world enjoyed thought experiments.
Keep reading Show less
Videos

The incredible physics behind quantum computing

Can computers do calculations in multiple universes? Scientists are working on it. Step into the world of quantum computing.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast