Bagpipe players have it rough. Not only do they play one of the loudest, most polarizing instruments out there, but they also have to be vigilant about neighbors murdering them in their sleep for filling their ears with the droning cacophony that is bagpipe music. Now, bagpipers have a new worry: being killed by their own instruments.
A new study in the respiratory medicine journal Thorax has claimed that a 61-year old bagpiper’s death can be attributed to his bagpipes. The bagpiper in question developed a lung infection that disappeared during a three-month vacation in Australia, yet suddenly appeared and worsened when he returned to his home in Liverpool. After questioning, it was revealed that the man had not brought his bagpipes with him on vacation, which clued doctors into what might be causing his symptoms. By the time the man was committed to a hospital, he had developed a fatal case of the inflammatory lung disease known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), an immunological overreaction that leads to scarring of the lungs.
According to the published research, HP could be caused or exacerbated by fungal colonies growing within musical instruments themselves:
[…] in this case, playing the bagpipes, we feel, was very relevant to the development of HP. We were able to isolate various fungal species from the bagpipes. There have been isolated case reports of musicians developing HP. Clinicians need to be aware of this potential trigger for developing HP, and wind instrument players need to be aware of the importance of regularly cleaning their instruments to minimize this risk.
A press release issued by the University Hospital of South Manchester where the discovery was made claims that this case is of dire importance to musicians who play those disgusting instruments that tend to collect saliva:
[…] cleaning instruments immediately after use and allowing them to drip dry could theoretically curb the risk of microbe growth […] both doctors and musicians need to be aware of this potential hazard and the importance of good instrument hygiene.
Great. Now those brass players are going to be doing that thing with their spit even more. You know the thing I’m talking about.