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Unclean reed instruments can cause 'saxophone lung'

Nov. 9, 2013 at 9:43 PM   |   Comments

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BALTIMORE, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Those who play reed instruments -- clarinets and saxophones -- can get "saxophone lung" from the instrument if it is not properly cleaned, U.S. researchers say.

In a case study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's Annual Scientific Meeting in Baltimore, researchers noted that musicians can develop allergic pulmonary disease to specific fungi that collect over time in the instrument's reed.

Dr. Marissa Shams and colleagues at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta said a patient presented with a one-year history of coughing and wheezing that didn't respond to inhaled corticosteroids, bronchodilators or oral antibiotics.

He was diagnosed with the rare disease "saxophone lung," which can be misdiagnosed due to the persistent cough, wheezing and association with mold allergy. The researchers learned the man had not cleaned his clarinet in about 30 years.

However, the researchers said it is imperative to properly diagnose saxophone lung since treatment with corticosteroids alone is not enough. Patients might not improve unless the instrument is cleaned properly and the mold removed from the instrument, the researchers warned.

A 2011 study of 13 previously played instruments of a high-school band were tested in 117 different places,

The study, published in General Dentistry, found the instruments produced 442 different bacteria, 58 molds and 19 yeasts.

Instruments should be cleaned after each use to reduce the number of organisms and cleaning should not be confined to the mouthpiece, since the bacteria invade the entire instrument, Cynthia Sherwood, spokeswoman for the Academy of General Dentistry said.

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