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Police officers in Missouri and around the country usually rely on the results of breath tests to determine whether or not a motorist consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel, but the devices used to conduct these tests do not always reveal the complete picture. There is an obscure medical condition that changes the way carbohydrates are digested, and it can lead to significantly elevated blood alcohol levels even when a person has consumed no alcohol at all.

The condition has been named auto-brewery syndrome, and doctors have yet to determine what causes it. What is known is that people who suffer from ABS often noticed its symptoms shortly after being prescribed antibiotic medications. It is believed that taking antibiotics creates conditions in the digestive tract that allow certain types of fungi and bacteria to thrive, and it is this fungi and bacteria that ferments carbohydrates and creates ethanol.

Physicians are often baffled when ABS sufferers describe symptoms such as lethargy, poor concentration and quick tempers, and the condition is often only discovered after they are arrested for drunk driving. In 2015, DWI charges against a woman were dismissed when it was discovered that she suffered from ABS, and the British Medical Journal recently published the case history of a 46-year-old man who learned that he suffered from the condition after he was charged with driving while under the influence. The man developed ABS after taking powerful antibiotics to treat an injured hand.

Other medical conditions that can influence the outcome of toxicology tests are far more common than ABS, which is why experienced criminal defense attorneys may ask clients who have been charged with drunk driving questions about their dietary habits and medical histories. When these interviews reveal that their clients follow ketogenic diets that are extremely low in carbohydrates or suffer from conditions such as acid reflux or diabetes, attorneys may challenge the results of breath tests and seek to have DWI charges dismissed.