A study recently done which was published in the journal General Dentistry yielded surprising results, which make me wonder how many nasty things I was exposing myself to in band class once upon a time… A shocking 442 different types of bacteria were found to be growing on 13 different instruments which were swabbed in 117 different places.
It wasn’t only bacteria which they found though. Also present on these instruments were 58 types of mold and 19 types of yeast. What’s worse (besides the fact that woodwind instruments had the highest number of microbes) is that the the species that were found were highly resistant to most of the antibiotics which are generally used.
Among the bacteria, many species of Staphylococcus were found, which are known to cause a variety of different things ranging from minor skin infections such as pimples to more serious conditions such as pneumonia and toxic shock syndrome. This youtube video shows the different places in which Staphylococcus can also be found, and why it’s important to be careful.
Not surprisingly, it was shown that mouthpieces tended to have more contamination than the other parts of the instruments studied, which included the cases. The instrument which was found to have the highest number of contaminants was the clarinet, and brass instruments generally had lower numbers of microbes present.
An easy way to prevent these instruments from getting so filthy is to sterilize them on a regular basis using ethylene oxide. However, it is worth noting that it should not be overused. Ethylene oxide has narcotic effects, and chronic exposure may lead to the induction of mutagenic effects, and it has been proven to be a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
As with any situation involving microbes, the best solution is to keep to yourself, wash your hands, and keep clean!