Belgian man whose body produces alcohol cleared of drunk-driving

Auto-brewery syndrome causes people to produce alcohol in the body (File picture) (Getty Images)

A Belgian man with a condition that causes his body to naturally produce alcohol has been cleared of drunk-driving.

Auto-brewery syndrome (ABS) is an extremely rare condition whereby the body produces alcohol due to high levels of ethanol in the blood.

The man’s lawyer Anse Ghesquiere said that just 20 people globally have been officially diagnosed with the condition.

The man, whose identity was not given, also works at a brewery.

Three doctors who examined the man confirmed that he had ABS, Ms Ghesquiere said.

The Bruges police court acquitted the man on Monday.

Belgian media said that the judge had emphasised that the defendant had not been intoxicated in his ruling.

Lisa Florin, a clinical biologist with the Belgian hospital AZ Sint-Lucas, said people with ABS produced the same type of alcohol as found in alcoholic drinks but that they generally felt less of its effects.

However, patients with ABS can sometimes present with the same symptoms as drunkenness, including slurred speech, stumbling, loss of motor functions and dizziness.

ABS can lead people to fail breathalyser tests and cause legal consequences for sufferers.

The rare condition, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, was first documented in the 1970s in Japan. It is caused by an unusually high concentration of yeast in the stomach.

Researchers have not yet discovered how yeast is able to set up colonies in the human gut. However, it is thought that yeast concentrations could appear after an infection.

In 2015, drunken driving charges against a woman in upstate New York were dismissed after she was discovered to have ABS.