In a bizarre medical first, a Pennsylvania woman has been found to have a condition that causes her urine to become alcoholic. She literally pees booze. The 61-year-old woman, who has not been named, is the first person in the world to receive a diagnosis of what doctors are calling “bladder fermentation syndrome.”
The woman’s bizarre case was diagnosed after an unfortunate set of circumstances. She had been on a waiting list for a liver transplant after battling cirrhosis and “poorly controlled diabetes” but was repeatedly denied when her urine kept testing positive for alcohol. Liver transplants are often denied to cirrhosis patients when they test positive for alcohol because alcoholism is one of the main causes of cirrhosis of the liver. I guess they’re making sure you don’t run the new one into the ground, too.
This woman, however, is not an alcoholic. She tried to convince her doctors of this, many times, to no avail. After all, she was peeing booze. Her doctors had no way of knowing she was the first person in human history whose bladder produces alcohol. And even if she had been able to tell them that, it still sounds like something a dirty, bearded scoundrel like me would say after a hard weekend. It’s one of those points-for-originality things.
It became a seemingly endless cycle of arguing between the patient and her doctors, according to the article published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. The doctors repeatedly advised the woman to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. The patient, however, knew she wasn’t pounding screwdrivers on her way to the liver transplant tests, so she took matters into her own hands and went to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre.
There, urine tests for ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate, which indicate alcohol consumption, turned out negative. Blood tests for alcohol also came back negative and doctors were left with a bit of a conundrum.
Upon examining the woman’s urine, doctors found that her bladder had become colonized with a strain of yeast called Candida glabrata, a species closely related to brewer’s yeast. Doctors collected a sample of the yeast and placed it in a petri dish, then they waited to see if it did, in fact, make booze appear. It did.
Alcohol fermentation requires a few specific things: water, sugar, yeast, and an absence of oxygen. These four conditions all happened to be present in this woman’s bladder. As a result of her diabetes, her urine was full of sugar. Combined with the yeast and lack of oxygen, her bladder became a brewery. Kenichi Tamama, study author and Associate Professor of Pathology says:
“I think the biggest reason for the patient to develop this condition is her poorly controlled diabetes because the bladder environment with high levels of glucose is definitely an optimistic condition for the growth and activity of the yeast.
And diabetes itself is also known to cause immune dysfunction, which should also contribute to this resilient yeast colonization in the bladder in this case.”
While this is the first case of “bladder fermentation syndrome,” there have been rare cases where a very similar thing has happened inside people’s digestive systems. Auto-brewery syndrome occurs when particular strains of yeast colonize the stomach and intestines, causing sugar to be turned into alcohol instead of digested. Due to it happening in the digestive tract, it is the alcohol that is digested instead, causing those unfortunate few to be slightly drunk and hungover all the time.
Hopefully, now that her story has been rigorously tested, this woman can get the liver transplant she needs. On a side note, my dog did actually destroy my homework once. Weird things happen.