A former teacher, who suffers from a condition in which his body produces alcohol, left the profession behind after he was pulled over and arrested for drunk driving twice in the span of two years.
The incidents followed a career in education during which Mark Mongiardo, a father and husband, was told he smelled of alcohol in spite of the fact he had not consumed a drop.
Mongiardo, who now resides in Estero, Florida, and works for the retailer Target, told WABC he suffers from Auto-Brewery Syndrome, which is also known as ABS.
In a story about the rare condition, the New York City ABC affiliate chronicled multiple people who suffer from ABS and one doctor who is on a mission to help them.
#ToledoBuzz – Dad’s life upended by rare auto-brewery syndrome — his body makes alcohol https://t.co/CmAUNlHziv #Toledo #ToledoOhio pic.twitter.com/sWLvnFwEtU
— ToledoBuzz (@toledobuzznews) March 16, 2023
Mongiardo said he first noticed symptoms when he was a high school teacher in New Jersey in 2006. His colleagues would complain about the smell of alcohol.
“I would never [drink on the job],” he told WABC. “I’m a teacher.”
“I really could just see it in everyone’s eyes. They just really didn’t believe what I said when I was saying I hadn’t been drinking,” Mongiardo said.
He was eventually placed on administrative leave and later moved to Long Island, New York, where he landed a job as a teacher and an athletic director.
In 2018, the bottom fell out.
He explained he was out driving in 2018 but was pulled over after his car matched the description of one someone had just littered from.
Police smelled alcohol on him, and he was arrested.
Mongiardo said his blood alcohol content, or BAC, was .18 or .19. at the time of his arrest, which is almost three times the legal limit.
“That’s when I lost everything. I lost everything that somebody could lose,” he said. “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.”
Mongiardo said he insisted to his family he had not been drinking, but no one seemed to understand.
He eventually found himself at the Staten Island office of Dr. Prasanna Wickremesinghe, who is one of the few doctors in the world who specializes in diagnosing and treating ABS.
Tests confirmed Mongiardo suffers from the condition, and he is no longer on the hook for two drunk driving charges.
“I started hysterically crying because I really felt that I had found the answer,” Mongiardo told WABC. “I had pending felony charges. You know, I was facing prison time for two DWIs when I had not been drinking.”
The doctor explained the condition is set off after antibiotics disrupt floral in the gut, which allows fungus and yeast to thrive. From there, the gut begins to ferment alcohol — and a person can test positive for it, whether they have been drinking or not.
Testing for the condition takes hours, requiring patients to consume sugar and then have their BAC tested every 30 minutes.
In Mongiardo’s case, a plan was created to keep him out of legal trouble.
The former educator keeps a breathalyzer on him, takes 30 pills a day and watches his diet.
Others with the condition have not been so lucky.
WABC reported Wickremesinghe treated two patients who suffered from ABS in Ohio and Indiana, who served hard time in prison after judges refused to accept the diagnoses were real.
The doctor has been attempting to make the medical community aware of ABS since he began studying it in 2014.
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