It’s almost a case worthy of the cranky diagnostician Hugh Laurie played on “House.” Doctors couldn’t determine the cause of a case of hypersensitivity pneumonitis that killed a 61-year-old Englishman.
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis—also known as farmer’s lung, bird fancier’s lung, humidifier lung and hot tub lung—is a rare disease caused by breathing in particles that irritate lung tissue. But the patient at the Manchester lung clinic had no known exposure to birds or the household molds that trigger the disease.
But Dr. Jenny King of University Hospital South Manchester took note of the man’s hobby: playing the bagpipes daily.
King and her colleagues published their findings last month in the journal Thorax, saying they had found more than six kinds of fungi in the man’s bagpipes. They caused a debilitating, and finally fatal, disease.
“His condition had worsened to the point that he couldn’t walk more than 20 metres, and was finding it hard to breathe, prompting admission to hospital,” according to a Thorax news release.
King and her co-authors warned other wind players of the importance of “cleaning instruments immediately after use and allowing them to drip dry could theoretically curb the risk of microbe growth.”
Consider yourself warned, woodwind and brass players. That clarinet or sax could be deadly, too.