Turns out the discolored funkiness on the clarinet swab shouldn’t have been so amusing — as it could have caused brain abscesses, staph infections and food poisoning, oh my! (Not to mention problems that one time at band camp.)

On March 22 MSNBC reported on a study authored by Tom Glass, professor at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa, in which researchers found 442 bacteria, 58 molds and 19 yeasts in cultures taken from 13 high school band instruments in northeastern Oklahoma. Some of the bacteria are responsible for very nasty maladies and can linger in waiting for months.

“We swabbed the instruments from the mouthpiece end all the way to the bell, and we also collected what was expelled from the bell and looked at the instrument cases,” Glass told MSNBC. “And we were absolutely shocked by the results.

“The instruments are sort of like Typhoid Mary. They get passed along to one after the other.”

now band directors have another threat in their arsenal, “Better clean
your instruments, kiddos. You don’t want your brain to turn to goo, do
you?” And students have yet another reason to avoid practicing their

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