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'My bagpipes gave me pneumonia': Musician catches deadly fungal virus from his beloved instrument John Shone, 77, breathed in the deadly germs while playing his bagpipe
The instrument hadn't been cleaned in 18 months and had 'fungal cultures'Traditional bagpipes are made of hide and need regular 'seasoning' to seal pores in the skin that acts as a natural cleanserMr Shone is now playing his bagpipe again after four weeks in hospital
02:13 GMT, 14 March 2013
02:57 GMT, 14 March 2013
A bagpipe player nearly died after becoming infected with a fungal pneumonia that colonised inside his beloved instrument.
John Shone spent four weeks in hospital fighting the infection after he breathed in germs from his bagpipe that he hadn't cleaned in 18 months.
Medics provided antibiotics but were unable to diagnose the 77-year-old's health problems.
It wasn't until they pressed Mr Shone on his hobbies that they were able to identify germs in the musical instrument as the cause.
Deadly: John Shone, 78, of Wiltshire, England, contracted a life-threatening fungal infection after the germs grew inside his beloved bagpipe
The College of Piping – based in Glasgow – has now warned pipers to be aware of the dangers of not cleaning their bagpipes properly.
Mr Shone – a former committee member of the Piobaireachd Society in the Highlands – was preparing to play at a special event in September when he fell ill during a fishing trip.
He was forced to return to his home south of the border in Wiltshire where his GP prescribed antibiotics.
The retired food company manager was then admitted to Salisbury Hospital but sent home two days later – only to be re-admitted after a week when his condition worsened.
He said: 'I was extremely tired and slowly fading away and my consultant told me it was life-threatening.
'I became very much weaker and it was obvious to my consultant and my son that they were dealing with a life-or-death situation.'
Mr Shone's son was asked to bring his father's bagpipes into the hospital for tests where pathologists discovered a heavy growth of fungal cultures.
They included the Rhodotorula and Fusarium species, which can cause infections that kill half of the people stricken by them.
Traditional bagpipes are made of hide and need regular 'seasoning' to seal pores in the skin that acts as a natural cleanser.
Bags made from man-made materials are supposed to have reduced the need for such frequent upkeep – synthetic bags usually come with a zipper on the side to allow access for cleaning.
Lucky to be alive: Mr Shone was admitted to Salisbury Hospital with fungal pneumonia and finally released after four weeks of treatment
The piper said he was preparing for an important performance and didn't want to tamper with his pipes as they were 'going well' and so he had neglected to clean them for a year and a half.
He also said he had just recovered from a previous illness that may have weakened his immune system before the spores entered his lungs.
Despite his month-long hospital stay, Mr Shone has taken up the pipes again but admitted he makes sure he cleans his instrument regularly.
He added: 'I am now back playing but it is taking some time to develop the stamina of old.'
Robert Wallace, principal of the Glasgow-based College of Piping, said he had never heard of bagpipes causing such a serious illness before.
He said: 'It's very important that all pipers make sure they sterilise their pipe bag regularly. With the advent of synthetic bags, this maintenance is even more essential.'
According to the National Piping Centre, there are at least 7,000 bagpipe players in Scotland alone, with thousands more around the world.
Different types of bagpipes are found in many cultures, and some form of the instrument is believed to have been played in the Middle East as long ago as 1,000 BC.