Playing bagpipes could trigger fatal lung condition: research

23 August 2016

New research claims people playing the bagpipes could run the risk of inhaling mould spores from inside the instrument.

The wind instrument could harbour a host of fungi and mould inside its moist interiors that could cause "bagpipe lung".

With the warm moist air that the player blowed in, conditions ideal for breeding the mould could be created and the spores were then inhaled back by the player.

The warning comes after the death of a player from a chronic inflammatory lung condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

According to members of the piping community in Scotland, the case was extremely rare and that pipers needed to have a basic knowledge of hygiene related to wind instruments.

According to the BMJ's Thorax journal, bagpipe, trombone and saxophone players could be among those affected.

Researchers from the University Hospital of South Manchester based its findings on the case of a 61-year-old man who was referred to a specialist lung  clinic in 2014 after seven years of a dry cough and progressive breathlessness.

He was treated with immunosuppressant drugs, but his condition continued to deteriorate to the point that he was not able to walk more than 20 metres, and was finding it hard to breathe, prompting admission to hospital.

The man had been diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in 2009. The man used to play the bagpipes daily and his condition had improved when he did not take them with him on a three month trip to Australia.

''[Musicians] need to be aware that there are risks that instruments can become colonised with mould and fungi and this can be related to serious and potentially fatal lung disease,'' said Dr Jenny King, first author of the study, of North Manchester general hospital, The Guardian reported.

''Wind instrument hygiene is really important in preventing this and [musicians] should be stringent in cleaning their instruments regularly.''

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