Here’s a Horrifying Story About a Man Who Was Killed by His Own Bagpipes

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Here’s a friendly reminder that pretty much everything you touch is covered in disgusting pathogens. If it’s not staph on the subway pole or E. coli in your Keurig, it’s fecal bacteria on your keyboard (or countertop, or clothing, or cup — “You find feces everywhere,” one biologist has told Science of Us). Or, via a horrifying story in New Scientist, killer mold and fungus lurking inside musical instruments.

The post highlights a recently published case study of a 61-year-old bagpipe player who battled a persistent cough for seven years, eventually receiving a diagnosis of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, or chronic lung inflammation. When he temporarily recovered during a long vacation — one in which he hadn’t packed his bagpipes — his doctors turned to the instrument as the potential culprit:

Jenny King at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, UK, and her colleagues took samples from the bagpipes and found various moulds and fungi inside the bag and neck of the instrument, as well as inside the reed protector around the mouthpiece. Despite treatment, the man later died because of scarring to his lungs.

Any wind instrument could potentially carry similar foreign bodies. King says there have been isolated cases of individuals contracting the same condition through playing the saxophone and trombone. “Because wind instruments are so warm and moist, they are an ideal [home] for moulds and fungi,” she says.

Let this be a lesson: Musicians, wash your instruments. And everyone, wash your damn hands.