His body brewed its own alcohol, but a fecal transplant shut the brewery down

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INTRO: In a first, doctors have used a fecal transplant to treat a rare condition that causes the body to brew its own alcohol. The disorder, known as auto-brewery syndrome (ABS), occurs when yeast builds up in the gut and converts sugar from food into alcohol. The result is a lot like being drunk: Blood alcohol spikes, causing symptoms such as dizziness, disorientation, coordination problems and mood changes.

And as anyone with ABS knows, it's a miserable and perplexing condition, according to Barbara Cordell, an adjunct professor at Panola College, in Texas. Cordell is also president of the nonprofit Auto-Brewery Syndrome Information and Research. Her interest in the condition began through personal experience, when her husband developed symptoms -- though it took years to trace them to ABS.

That is a typical scenario, Cordell said. Few doctors actually recognize and treat the condition, she noted. That's why the new case, reported Aug. 18 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, is "exciting," Cordell said. It's the first known instance of doctors treating ABS with a fecal transplant -- a procedure largely considered investigational.

Cordell said it could be a "breakthrough" for people with severe cases of ABS that do not respond to simpler fixes, like diet changes. Fecal transplants involve transferring stool from a healthy donor into the patient's gastrointestinal tract. The idea is to change the bacterial composition of the gut, hopefully to a healthier balance... (MORE - details)

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