A study has suggested that germs survive for several days in wind instruments including the clarinet, flute, and saxophone.
The researchers, led by Stuart Levy, of Tufts University School of Medicine, urge proper cleaning of these instruments. The data suggested that a need for additional research to determine the conditions for survival of germs on shared musical instruments, especially those with wooden reeds.
"Thousands of children share musical instruments in elementary and high school each year but there is no established standard for cleaning those instruments. We found that disease-causing germs survive on commonly shared instruments for one to two days," said Levy.
The researchers collected samples from 20 clarinets, flutes, and saxophones and found living bacteria as well as mold or yeast on all instruments.
Using a pump and an aerosol generator, they simulated playing and applied E. coli, Staphylococcus, and a deactivated strain of tuberculosis bacteria to a clarinet.
Culturing bacteria from the clarinet, they found that bacteria survived for hours to a few days. The deactivated strain of tuberculosis bacteria survived for up to 13 days.
Although the pilot study was not focused on mold or other fungi, the researchers noted that these potentially disease-causing microorganisms also survived on and inside instruments. Wooden reeds and mouthpieces were found to harbor the greatest quantities of bacteria.
The study has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research.