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Bagpipe Lung Death: Inhaling Mold, Fungi Kills English Piper

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By    |   Wednesday, 24 Aug 2016 05:34 AM

Mold and fungi in his bagpipes are being blamed for the death of a 61-year-old man in England in a case of what doctors are referring to as "bagpipe lung."

The man's death appears to be the first documented death from bagpipe lung, said USA Today, noting that the man suffered symptoms including dry cough, shortness of breath and weakness for seven years.

"It sounds like a Monty Python skit or an Agatha Christie story gone wrong," said William Schaffner, a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

The lung disease, known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis, occurs when the immune system tries to fight off a foreign invader, such as mold or yeast. Inflammation leads to lung scarring and difficulty breathing.

A similar condition caused by pigeon dust is known as "pigeon fancier’s lung."

Respiratory infections also have been reported among trombone and saxophone players.

The English bagpiper's illness stumped doctors, who prescribed the steroid prednisolone and the immunosuppressive drug azathioprine, said The Los Angeles Times.

Not until his symptoms began to improve during a three-month vacation without his bagpipes did anyone think to test the instrument. A mix of fungi, including Rhodotorula mucilaginosa, Fusarium oxysporum, various species of Penicillium, and Trichosporon mucoides, was found.

“(Musicians) need to be aware that there are risks that instruments can become colonized with mold and fungi and this can be related to serious and potentially fatal lung disease,” said Dr. Jenny King, who studied the death, according to The Guardian. He said wind musicians should be stringent in cleaning their instruments regularly.

In 2013, bagpiper John Shone fell seriously ill with a respiratory illness, prompting the Glasgow-based College of Piping to issue a warning of the dangers of fungi in instruments.

"It was very much life-threatening," Shone told the Guardian. "I was near death."

Robert Wallace, editor of Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association’s magazine, told The Guardian that the illness is rare.

"It’s extremely rare," he said. "However that doesn’t mean to say we should drop our guard."

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Mold and fungi in his bagpipes are being blamed for the death of a 61-year-old man in England in a case of what doctors are referring to as "bagpipe lung."
bagpipe, lung, death, mold, fungi
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2016-34-24
Wednesday, 24 Aug 2016 05:34 AM
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