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September 7, 1970

Septic Retinitis Due to Injection of a Homemade Alcoholic Beverage

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine and Ophthalmology Service, Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco 94129.

JAMA. 1970;213(10):1644-1646. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170360042007

Partially fermented mixtures of yeast, sugar, and potato peelings or canned peaches were ingested by four young men and injected intravenously by seven. The ingestors experienced gastrointestinal irritation and mild transient neurotoxic effects while the injectors had in addition, more severe systemic symptoms and septic retinitis as well as mild pancytopenia. The febrile reaction and funduscopic findings were probably due to bacterial contaminants of the mixture although Saccharomyces cerevisiae was a possible cause. Septic retinitis is an occasional finding in subacute bacterial endocarditis and septicemia, but its presence in the seven injectors was unexpected and perhaps the result of a toxin in the fermented mixture damaging vessel walls or an immune response. With the current difficulty in obtaining the usually abused drugs, physicians should be alert to possible homemade intoxicants causing unusual syndromes in susceptible populations.