The amazing power of gut bacteria. Here's an article about one that can metabolize sugars from food into alcohol
A man in China who, after eating high-carbohydrate or sugary meals, became so intoxicated that he blacked out, has led researchers to discover strains of bacteria in the human gut that could be an important driver of the world’s most common liver disease.
Doctors previously had diagnosed the man’s intoxication problem as autobrewery syndrome, a rarely reported condition in which people become drunk from starchy or sugary foods. It is thought to be caused by gut fermentation, aided by an abundance of yeast. But antifungal treatment had no effect on the man. Liver biopsies showed he had nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the severe form of NAFLD. He was moved to the intensive care unit and closely observed. Doctors noted that after he ate a meal high in sugar, his blood alcohol level rose to as high as 400 milligrams per deciliter. “That’s equivalent to 15 shots of 40% [80-proof] whisky,” Yuan says.
Because some other microbes can metabolize sugars into alcohol, Yuan and colleagues analyzed 14 of the man’s stool samples taken at different times for species-specific bacterial DNA fragments. They found that when he was most intoxicated, 18.8% of the bacteria in a sample were K. pneumoniae, a 900-fold increase over normal. When they put these bacteria in a medium of yeast and sugar, they could isolate strains of the bacterium that produced high, medium, or low levels of alcohol.
Yuan and colleagues report that the initial patient they studied recovered from his bacteria-driven autobrewery syndrome after he began to take antibiotics and changed his diet. His NASH has abated, too. Her team is now planning to study the gut microbes of a large group of people, including children, over time. “We want to investigate why some people have high-alcohol-producing strains of K. pneumoniae in their gut while others don’t,” she says.
Diehl cautions that the new study speaks only to a subset of NAFLD patients. But she predicts “this will work will attract a lot of attention.”