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Mark Mongiardo: Florida dad-of-2 who ‘never had alcohol’ loses job after he fails breathalyzer test due to rare syndrome

'During the school day, I had a meeting, I was forced to take a blood test and a breath test, and I had alcohol in my system,' he stated
UPDATED MAR 17, 2023
Mark Mongiardo has a rare condition called Auto-brewery syndrome (ABC/ Video screenshot)
Mark Mongiardo has a rare condition called Auto-brewery syndrome (ABC/ Video screenshot)

ESTERO, FLORIDA: A father-of-two who lost his employment as a high school teacher due to a drunk driving charge learned he failed a Breathalyzer test because he has a rare condition called Auto-brewery syndrome (ABS), in which the body makes alcohol in the gut. Mark Mongiardo from Estero, Florida, claimed that his symptoms started to manifest in 2006 while he was working as a high school coach and teacher in New Jersey. Coworkers there started to report that he smelled of alcohol although he never drank at work.

The incident ultimately led to him switching employment to a school in upstate New York, but everything fell apart in 2018 when he was unexpectedly pulled over and accused of driving under the influence. Even though Mongiardo continued to insist that he hadn't touched a drop of alcohol, the accusation cost him his employment. 


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What is Auto-brewery syndrome (ABS)?

Endogenous ethanol fermentation and gut fermentation syndrome are other names for auto-brewery syndrome. Sometimes, it is referred to as "drunkenness disease." "You become intoxicated or drunk due to this uncommon situation without consuming alcohol. Your body produces alcohol when starchy and sugary meals (carbohydrates) are consumed. The diagnosis of auto brewing syndrome can be challenging. It might also be confused with other illnesses," per Healthline.

ABS is a rare medical disease in which the digestive system produces excessive amounts of ethanol through endogenous fermentation. The bacteria and yeasts that cause ABS include Saccharomyces cerevisiae, S boulardii, Candida albicans, C tropicalis, C krusei, C glabrata, C kefyr, C parapsilosis, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Enterococcus faecium. These organisms generate ethanol using routes of lactic acid fermentation or mixed acid fermentation. The ethanol produced by these processes is absorbed in the small intestine, increasing blood alcohol levels that result in intoxicating effects without alcohol intake, per Wikipedia.

Stopping the use of antibiotics and adhering to a low-carb, sugar-free diet can help some people with auto-brewery syndrome symptoms. Others might need antibiotics or antifungals in addition to dietary changes. Relapse might be avoided with the assistance of probiotics, a low-carbohydrate diet, and avoiding antibiotics. Some patients experience relapses on a regular basis, struggle to balance their microbiome, and still experience periods of intoxication, as per NCBI.

What struggles did Mark Mongiardo face?

In 2018, everything fell apart when Mongiardo was unexpectedly stopped and accused of intoxicated driving. "That’s when I lost everything. I lost everything that somebody could lose," he said to ABC 7. "I had to sell my house, I had to sell my car. I couldn’t get a job in education, I couldn’t get a job at a grocery store." He added, "I had pending felony charges. You know, I was facing prison time for two DWIs when I had not been drinking."

'I started hysterically crying'

The events ultimately brought Mongiardo to Staten Island gastroenterologist Dr Prasanna Wickremesinghe, one of the few specialists in ABS treatment, who gave him the diagnosis. "I started hysterically crying because I really felt that I had found the answer," Mongiardo, who now works at Target, stated. Answers eventually materialized when Mongiardo visited Wickremesinghe, who has been captivated by ABS since he first encountered it in 2014.

What did Dr Prasanna Wickremesinghe say?

According to Wickremesinghe, there is no established method for diagnosing the condition, which he claims is primarily brought on when a patient experiences an adverse reaction to antibiotics. He claimed that the medication could alter the gut's microbiome, enabling fungi and yeast to take control. Once carbohydrates are present, the stomach starts to ferment alcohol. "That’s how you get a patient who appears drunk but claims they haven’t had anything to drink," the doctor stated.

The specialist has dealt with 30 cases of the disease, which typically calls for antifungals and a stringent low-carbohydrate diet. According to Wickremesinghe, he is trying to increase medical professionals' awareness of ABS in order to help find more potential patients and, ideally, create an environment for diagnosing and treating the condition.  

How did Mongiardo find out about ABS?

Mongiardo had his first inkling that something wasn't right when he was working as an assistant basketball coach and physical education teacher at New Milford High School in New Jersey. Employees there started complaining that he smelled like booze while he was working. "I would never do that. I’m a teacher," Mongiardo stated. "I really had no idea what was going on."

'I had alcohol in my system'

In the end, Mongiardo claimed he had to quit the institution, and in 2018 he accepted a position as the director of physical education, health, and athletics at the Liberty Central School District. However, three weeks into his new job, Mongiardo found himself being stopped by the police after they noticed that his vehicle resembled one that someone was littering from. Mongiardo was startled to find out during the stop that his blood alcohol level was nearly .18, higher than the permitted level.

He was stopped for using his phone while driving again in 2019, and this time his boss learned of it. "During the school day, I had a meeting, I was forced to take a blood test and a breath test, and I had alcohol in my system," he said.

He takes 30 pills a day to treat his ABS

Mongiardo was placed on leave for the rest of the academic year and informed by the institution that they would not be renewing his contract, essentially ending his teaching career. Fortunately for Mongiardo, the prosecution's inability to act swiftly led to the dismissal of the DWI charges against him. The Florida resident currently follows a low-carb diet, consumes 30 pills a day to treat his ABS, and performs a breathalyzer test before operating a motor vehicle.

'Rock bottom was a tough place'


The man took to Facebook and detailed his life. "For many of you that hear this story and know me or knew me either as a friend or professionally, it gives some insight regarding what was wrong with me the last 15 years," he wrote. "Having my story told is another step in the healing process. When you lose everything, it humbles you and gives you a new perspective on life. You learn to appreciate everything you have more than you did before." He added, "When you lose your career, your home and your family, you are forced to become a stronger individual. Rock bottom was a tough place. But I’ve been climbing out. One day at a time."

'So glad you found answers'

The reality of Mongiardo with his ABS sparked a swift reaction on the internet. Many users expressed love and support for him with one user replying on Facebook, "So glad you found answers and move forward with your beautiful family." Another user wrote, "Sorry to hear your struggle but so happy you have answers! Xoxo." A user on Twitter joked, "i wish i had auto-brewery syndrome." Another user wrote, "Wait... auto brewery syndrome your body makes brew and you are permanently drunk?" A user on Facebook commented, "The human body is sure strange." Another noted, "



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