Belgian man whose body makes its own alcohol cleared of drink-driving

The man suffers from condition called auto-brewery syndrome

Namita Singh
Wednesday 24 April 2024 10:45 BST
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A court in Belgium acquitted a man in a drink-driving case on Monday after his lawyer explained how a rare metabolic condition causes his client’s body to produce alcohol.

The case against the 40-year-old man was dismissed after he proved to the court that he suffers from a condition called auto-brewery syndrome.

Characterised by the endogenous production of alcohol, the condition typically presents with the signs of alcohol intoxication like staggering gait, slurred speech, gastrointestinal distress, and a state of confusion, according to the National Library of Medicine.

The man was first fined by police in 2019 and pulled up again in April 2022 after a breath analyser returned a reading of 0.91mg of alcohol per litre, way past the legal limit of 0.22 mg per litre, reported AFP.

It was after his latest run-in with police that he learnt of his condition, according to the news agency.

Anse Ghesquiere, the man’s lawyer, told Reuters that in "another unfortunate coincidence" her client works at a brewery, but three doctors who independently examined him confirmed he suffered from auto-brewery syndrome.

Belgian media said that the judge emphasised in the verdict that the defendant, who was not named in line with local judicial custom, did not experience symptoms of intoxication.

Lisa Florin, clinical biologist with Belgian hospital AZ Sint-Lucas, explained that people with the condition produce the same type of alcohol as that in alcoholic drinks but that they generally feel less of its effects.

She added that people are not born with auto-brewery syndrome but can get it if they suffer from some other intestine-related condition.

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