British man killed by mouldy bagpipes

Doctors in the UK have labelled the condition 'bagpipe lung' (Getty)
Doctors in the UK have labelled the condition 'bagpipe lung' (Getty)

If you needed an excuse not to take up the bagpipes, here it is: they can give you inflammatory lung disease.

Doctors in the UK have labelled it 'bagpipe lung', after a British bagpiper battled coughs and breathlessness for seven years with no apparent cause, before dying.

They're warning players of other wind instruments - such as saxophones, clarinets and trombones - that they could also potentially be at risk.

The man's house wasn't mouldy and he didn't smoke. But after being hospitalised in 2014, he told doctors the symptoms went away on a trip to Australia he took in 2011 - leaving his beloved bagpipes behind.

Doctors took samples from the bagpipes, and found various different fungi, including Paecilomyces variotti, Fusarium oxysporum, Penicillium species, Rhodotorula mucilaginosa,Trichosporon mucoides and Exophiala dermatitidis.

The man died soon after, and a post mortem showed he had lung damage "consistent with acute respiratory distress syndrome and tissue fibrosis". He'd played the mouldy bagpipes virtually every day for decades.

"This is the first case report identifying fungal exposure, from a bagpipe player, as a potential trigger for the development of [hypersensitivity pneumonitis]," researchers from University Hospital South Manchester wrote in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal.

"The clinical history of daily bagpipe playing, coupled with marked symptomatic improvement when this exposure was removed, and the identification of multiple potential precipitating antigens isolated from the bagpipes, make this the likely cause."

Musicians should clean their instruments after use they say, and allow them to drip-dry to minimise the risks microbes could grow inside.