Washington: Commonly shared wind musical instruments harbour germs which can be a source of infection, a recent study has indicated.
Germs survive for several days in wind instruments like the clarinet, flute and saxophone, said Stuart Levy, professor of molecular biology and microbiology at the Tufts University School of Medicine, who led the study.
"We found that disease-causing germs survive on commonly-shared instruments for one to two days," he said.
"Thousands of children share musical instruments in elementary and high school each year but there is no established standard for cleaning those instruments," Levy added.
The International Journal of Environmental Health research reports that early research has proved that shared wind instruments are conducive to bacteria and people who play them have recurring sore throats and airway inflammation.
"We tested to see if microorganisms that can cause sickness could survive in or on parts of a used instrument," said study co-author Bonnie Marshall, research associate in the Levy Lab at Tufts, according to a Tufts statement.
The researchers collected samples from clarinets, flutes and saxophones and found living bacteria as well as mould or yeast on all instruments.
Using a pump and an aerosol generator, they simulated playing and applied E. coli, Staphylococcus, a form of bacteria and another deactivated strain of tuberculosis bacteria to a clarinet.
Culturing bacteria from the clarinet, they found that bacteria survived from a few hours to a few days.
The researchers noted that these potentially disease-causing microorganisms also survived on and inside instruments. Wooden reeds and mouthpieces were found to retain the greatest quantities of germs.
"Although hygienic practices increasingly are being encouraged, in part by the swine flu epidemic and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) outbreaks, our results suggest that cleaning shared wind instruments should also be encouraged, especially in schools," Levy said.