The musical instruments kids play in school bands and orchestras are traveling denizens of bacteria and fungi, say the authors of a new study. Music education is great for kids, they note, but please, please wash the instruments!
Researchers at Oklahoma State University bravely examined 13 instruments that belonged to a high school band. Six of the instruments had been played the previous week and seven hadn't been played in a month. Swabs were taken of 117 different sites on the instruments, including the mouthpieces, internal chambers and even the carrying cases.
The results scored high on the yuck factor. The researchers found 442 different bacteria, 58 types of mold and 19 types of yeast. Many of the bacteria were species of Staphylococcus, which can cause staph infection. Most of the bacteria can cause illness, the authors noted. Mold spores can contribute to the development of asthma. Even the instruments that had not been played recently harbored germs galore.
"Furthermore, this study also found that many of these microbes are highly resistant to some or most of the antibiotics normally used in general practice, including methicillin," the authors wrote.