Journal of Preventive, Diagnostic and Treatment Strategies in Medicine

: 2022  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 156--157

Bacterial flora of stored musical instruments: Relevance to infection prevention and control

John E Moore, Beverley Cherie Millar 
 Laboratory for Disinfection and Pathogen Elimination Studies, Northern Ireland Public Health Laboratory, Belfast City Hospital, Belfast, BT9 7AD, Northern Ireland, UK

Correspondence Address:
Prof. John E Moore
Laboratory for Disinfection and Pathogen Elimination Studies, Northern Ireland Public Health Laboratory, Belfast City Hospital, Belfast, BT9 7AD, Northern Ireland

How to cite this article:
Moore JE, Millar BC. Bacterial flora of stored musical instruments: Relevance to infection prevention and control.J Prev Diagn Treat Strategies Med 2022;1:156-157

How to cite this URL:
Moore JE, Millar BC. Bacterial flora of stored musical instruments: Relevance to infection prevention and control. J Prev Diagn Treat Strategies Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 7 ];1:156-157
Available from:

Full Text

The emergence and dominance of SARS-CoV-2 over this past 2 years, clinically manifesting as COVID-19 disease in humans, has reset the general public's perception and scrutiny of aspects of everyday public health infection prevention and control. People are now subconsciously performing risk assessments and formulating risk management strategies to avoid acquiring and transmitting of communicable infections, precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. One area which has been highlighted is the risk associated with musical instruments, especially the sharing of musical instruments between and among players. There is a paucity of information on the bacterial flora of musical instruments that have been stored for several months.

Musical instruments (n = 5) were obtained from the Music Service, Education Authority of Northern Ireland, UK. These instruments consisted of two trumpets, flute, viola, and cello [Table 1]. All the instruments had been out of service with children and adolescent instrumental players for at least 1 year, due to the instrument being broken and deemed unrepairable. On average, 10 sites, representative of the entire instrument, were swabbed for culturable bacteria by premoistening a sterile cotton swab in 0.1% (w/v/) peptone saline diluent (Oxoid CM, Basingstoke, UK). Following swabbing, the swab was streaked onto Columbia Blood Agar (CM0331) supplemented with 5% (v/v) defibrinated blood (SR0050). Inoculated plates were incubated aerobically for 48 h at 37°C before examination. Resulting purified colonies were identified to the species level employing matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization–time-of-flight technology (bioMerieux Ltd., UK), in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.{Table 1}

[Table 1] describes the bacterial flora identified from these musical instruments. All isolates identified were Gram positive, and no Gram-negative organisms were identified. These isolates belonged to four different genera and to five species. With the exception of Staphylococcus aureus, all organisms were sporeformers.

In terms of risk of infection, S. aureus was the most clinically significant organism identified. This organism was isolated from the surface of horse hair of the bow from a viola. S. aureus is a well-established pathogen, particularly of skin and skin-related infections.[1] Of the spore-forming organisms identified, Bacillus cereus was a significant pathogen,[2] and Bacillus licheniformis has previously been described as acting in a pathogenic manner, namely in maxillary sinus infection,[3] pacemaker lead infection,[4] and in bacteremia.[5]

Our study mainly identified organisms which were able to endure long periods of survival under harsh environmental conditions, namely lack of nutrition and survival under conditions of relative dehydration. Such survival may be attributed to the organisms having an elaborate mechanism of surviving such challenging environmental conditions, namely by their ability to sporulate. The bacterial flora identified here was remarkably different to the flora isolated from musical instruments which had been in recent circulation among players.[6]

In addition, a previous study by Marshall and Levi[7] demonstrated that survival of potentially pathogenic bacteria (Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Moraxella, Escherichia coli, and attenuated Mycobacterium tuberculosis) when applied to reeds or following simulated “play” of a clarinet, survived for a maximum of 24–48 h on reeds, except Mycobacterium, which persisted for 13 days. In simulated play experiments, test bacteria could persist for up to 5 days.[7]

Storage of musical instruments for prolonged periods of time may help reduce the burden of contaminating culturable bacterial organisms.


The authors wish to acknowledge with thanks Mr. John McCaughan, Department of Medical Microbiology, The Royal Group of Hospitals, Grosvenor Road, Belfast Northern Ireland, UK, for the MALDI-TOF analyses. Furthermore, the authors wish to acknowledge with thanks the support from Mr. Alan Murphy, Microbiological Media Section, Northern Ireland Public Health Laboratory, Belfast City Hospital, for preparation of the culture media employed in this study. The authors also wish to thank Mr. Benedict Marley and Mr. Darren Canmore, from the Northern Ireland Education Authority's Music Service, for provision of musical instruments sampled in the current study.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


1Zhou S, Rao Y, Li J, Huang Q, Rao X. Staphylococcus aureus small-colony variants: Formation, infection, and treatment. Microbiol Res 2022;260:127040.
2Veysseyre F, Fourcade C, Lavigne JP, Sotto A. Bacillus cereus infection: 57 case patients and a literature review. Med Mal Infect 2015;45:436-40.
3Garcia Hejl C, Sanmartin N, Samson T, Soler C, Koeck JL. Maxillary sinus infection by Bacillus licheniformis: A case report from Djibouti. Med Sante Trop 2015;25:220-1.
4Idelevich EA, Pogoda CA, Ballhausen B, Wüllenweber J, Eckardt L, Baumgartner H, et al. Pacemaker lead infection and related bacteraemia caused by normal and small colony variant phenotypes of Bacillus licheniformis. J Med Microbiol 2013;62:940-4.
5Peloux Y, Charrel-Taranger C, Gouin F. New opportunist infection due to a Bacillus. A case of bacteremia with Bacillus licheniformis. Pathol Biol (Paris) 1976;24:97-8.
6Bridges CL. A Study of the Bacterial Flora in Selected Student Brass Musical Instruments. PhD Thesis. University of Hawaii; 2005.
7Marshall B, Levy S. Microbial contamination of musical wind instruments. Int J Environ Health Res 2011;21:275-85.