Swabs were taken from a range of musical instrument mouthpieces and from the instrumentalists’ nose and throat. The swabs were vortexed in maintenance medium then plated onto blood agar and mannitol salt agar culture media then incubated at 37°C. The quantitative and qualitative information obtained during the survey was compared to the length of time elapsed since the instruments were last used.
Viable b haemolytic streptococci were present in high numbers (>105 cfu/ml-1) 96 hours after use of the mouthpiece and viable staphycocci were present in high numbers (11x104 cfu/ml-1) 72 hours after use.
The target organisms were found in higher numbers in a soprano saxophone mouthpiece at four and twelve hours after use than immediately after use.
Seventy representative strains of presumptive staphycocci were identified using the tables contained within Cowan and Steel’s Manual for the Identification of Medical Bacteria (1985).
The prominent Staphylococcus species isolated from the mouthpieces were Staphylococcus capitus, Staphylococcus cohnii, Staphylococcus epiderminus, Staphylococcus hominis and Staphylococcus saprophyticus.
It was evident that growth of staphycocci and b haemolytic streptococci occurs within the mouthpieces after they have been used and stored, and that potentially pathogenic bacteria can remain viable for relatively long periods inside musical instrument mouthpieces. High infective doses of these pathogens, caused by growth inside the mouthpieces, may explain why musicians suffer frequently from throat infections.
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