Listen! Wind instruments like bagpipes can lead to deadly lung disease

  • IANS, London
  • Updated: Aug 24, 2016 12:11 IST
Wind instruments such as bagpipes could lead to pneumonitis, caused by regularly breathing in mould and fungi lurking inside the moist interior of bagpipes. (Shutterstock)

People who love to play a variety of wind instruments such as trumpets, bagpipes or saxophones, better be careful. They are at an increased risk of a ‘bagpipe lung’, a deadly inflammatory lung disease, says a study.

The warning comes after a 61-year-old British man died of the chronic inflammatory lung condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis -- thought to have been caused by regularly breathing in mould and fungi lurking inside the moist interior of a set of bagpipes.

The man had a dry cough and progressive breathlessness for seven years, despite treatment with immunosuppressant drugs.

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The doctors identified multiple potential precipitating antigens isolated from his bagpipes.

He died as a result of extensive lung damage consistent with acute respiratory distress syndrome and tissue fibrosis (scarring), the study said.

“This is the first case that identified fungal exposure, from a bagpipe player, as a potential trigger for the development of (hypersensitivity pneumonitis),” said Jenny King from University Hospital of South Manchester (UHSM) in Manchester, Britain.

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The findings showed that interiors of wind instruments turn moist and may thus foster growth of fungi or moulds that can lead to hypersensitivity pneumonitis that gets triggered by the immune system’s response to an inhaled environmental antigen.

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The condition can eventually progress to disabling or fatal lung disease, the authors noted, adding that any type of wind instrument could be contaminated with yeasts and moulds, making players susceptible to the risk of hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

Cleaning instruments immediately after use and allowing them to drip dry could theoretically curb the risk of microbe growth, the researchers suggested, in the paper published in the journal Thorax.

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