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Doctors Saved Man's Life by Administering Him 15 Beers

Newsweek logo Newsweek 1/22/2019 Aristos Georgiou

© Alena Kravchenko/Getty Images A man dying from alcohol poisoning was saved after doctors in Vietnam pumped 15 cans worth of beer into his body.

The 48-year-old, Nguyen Van Nhat, fell unconscious and was taken to a hospital in the central Vietnamese province of Quang Tri on Dec. 25 where doctors found that levels of methanol—a dangerous form of alcohol—in his body were more than 1,000 times over the recommended limit, the Daily Mirror reported.

When he arrived, medical staff at the General Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, led by Dr. Le Van Lam, immediately administered him three cans of beer, equivalent to about 1 liter. Over the course of the day, doctors transfused a total of 15 cans of beer into the man’s body at a rate of about one every hour.

This caused the liver to slow down the rate at which it processed methanol, allowing the man to eventually regain consciousness.

There are two types of alcohol—ethanol and methanol—both of which are very similar chemically and are toxic to the body. However, methanol—whose chemical structure varies slightly from its cousin—is not processed as well by the body and thus can be far more dangerous.

This is why the majority of alcoholic consumer drinks contain ethanol, not methanol—which is found in gasoline, antifreeze, paints, thinners, adhesives, cleaning products, inks and some beverages, including bootleg liquor.

Normally, when we consume drinks containing ethanol, an enzyme in the body known as alcohol dehydrogenase breaks down the compound into a toxic substance and known carcinogen called acetaldehyde. This is then metabolized into a byproduct known as acetate, which is further broken down into water and carbon dioxide before being eliminated.

On the other hand, methanol—which can be fatal in far smaller doses than ethanol—gets metabolized by the same enzyme in a different way. It is turned into a highly toxic compound known as formaldehyde, which is then broken down further into formic acid. These two substances are responsible for the dangerous effects of methanol poisoning—which can include permanent blindness, nervous system depression and, potentially, death—and are what caused the man to fall unconscious.

Administering beer to the patient can stop formaldehyde turning into formic acid, which gave the doctors more time to perform dialysis and remove the alcohol from his system completely, Vietnam Net reported.

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