A 61-year-old man from the U.K. developed a serious lung infection doctors learned about after his death. Apparently, the man’s passion for bagpipes slowly killed him.
But when the man was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, it was too late. His family noted that the man experienced difficulty to breathe for 7 years. Once an avid long-distance runner, the man could barely walk 65 feet in his last year of life.
The necropsy report revealed that the man’s lungs were working at a third of their full capacity. Medical experts were shocked. But the greatest surprise was to learn the cause of their patient’s death: mold in his bagpipes.
A study published in Thorax this week shows the patient failed to properly sanitize the musical instrument, and the resulting mold and spores got into his lungs.
The patient first learned that he had developed a strange respiratory condition five years ago.
Back then, the diagnosis was hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), but no doctor told him what must have caused it. The disease’s other names (hot tub lung, farmer’s lung, and pigeon fancier’s lung) could have provided doctors with a tip to solve the mystery.
Nevertheless, the real cause of the condition escaped every doctor. Additionally, the man was not a smoker, had no mold problems at home, and no history of connective tissue disease. Plus, he wasn’t a pigeon lover either.
The Mystery Illness’ Progression
The condition got better only when the man stayed in Australia for three months. Once he was back home, however, his breathing started to deteriorate fast. But no one could guess what was killing him.
He eventually landed in a hospital where he was diagnosed with hypoxia. Doctors found that there was not enough oxygen in the man’s blood, and there was a bizarre crackling coming from his lungs.
Doctors’ initial guess was pneumonia, advanced HP or a blood clot obstructing breathing. CT scans revealed that the patient’s 7-year-old lung scarring got a lot worse. There were no traces of a blood clot, though.
In the end, doctors prescribed drugs for bacterial pneumonia. Because those drugs failed, they gave him Posaconazole therapy which treats fungal infections. For the man, however, it was too late. He died one month later in the hospital.
Two years later, a group of scientists said that they cracked the mystery, and they even found a new name for the man’s disease: bagpipe lung.
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