News • Aerosol propagation study

Covid-19: is it safe to play the trumpet and other wind instruments?

Aerosol generated by playing woodwind and brass instruments is less than that produced when vocalising (speaking and singing) and is no different than a person breathing, new research has found.

Photo
Classical musician and award-winning professional trumpeter Alison Balsom taking part in the PERFORM-2 study. Alison is pictured in an operating theatre (a zero aerosol environment) playing the recorder into a funnel that allows the researchers to measure the aerosols generated from playing the instrument.

Image credit: University of Bristol

The findings, published online in the journal Aerosol Science and Technology, could be crucial to developing a roadmap for lifting Covid-19 restrictions in the performing arts, which have been significantly restricted since the start of the pandemic. 

The research project, known as PERFORM (ParticulatE Respiratory Matter to InForm Guidance for the Safe Distancing of PerfOrmeRs in a Covid-19 PandeMic), was supported by Public Health England, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and UKRI and was carried out by a collaborative team from Imperial College London, University of Bristol, Wexham Park Hospital, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and Royal Brompton Hospital. The study looked at the amount of aerosols and droplets generated when playing woodwind and brass instruments compared with breathing and vocalisation (speaking and singing). The work was carried out in an environment with no background aerosol particles to complicate measurement interpretation, with nine musicians playing 13 woodwind and brass instruments.

Recommended article

Photo

News • Aerosol study

Singing in times of COVID-19: more space to the front than to the side

How high is the risk that aerosol transmission during choral singing could cause infection with the coronavirus? After occurrences of infection among choirs in the USA and Germany, Bavarian Broadcasting carried out a complex series of experiments for its musical ensembles in conjunction with the LMU University Hospital Munich and the Universitätsklinikum Erlangen (FAU).

The research team found aerosol (<20 μm diameter) generated while playing woodwind and brass instruments is similar to that produced by breathing, based on measurements of several musicians playing the flute and piccolo as well measurements across a range of instruments including clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and tuba. Aerosol concentrations generated while instrument playing were lower than those associated with vocalising at high volume. Large droplets (>20 μm diameter) were not observed during instrument playing but were observed during singing and coughing. Together the findings indicate that playing woodwind and brass instruments generates less aerosol than vocalising at high volume levels.

Our study [...] could have important policy implications in a roadmap to lifting Covid-19 restrictions, as many performing arts activities have been, and continue to be, severely restricted

Bryan Bzdek

Concentrations of aerosol emissions from the musicians during breathing and vocalising were consistent with results from a study carried out last year of a large group of professional singers. No difference was found between the aerosol concentrations generated by professional and amateur performers while breathing or vocalising, suggesting aerosol generation is consistent across amateur and professional singers regardless of vocal training.

Dr Bryan Bzdek, Lecturer in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol and corresponding author on the paper, said: “Our study found playing woodwind and brass instruments generates less aerosol than vocalisation, which could have important policy implications in a roadmap to lifting Covid-19 restrictions, as many performing arts activities have been, and continue to be, severely restricted.”

Jonathan Reid, Director of Bristol Aerosol Research Centre and Professor of Physical Chemistry in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol, added: “This study confirms that the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 are likely elevated during vocalisation at loud volume in poorly ventilated spaces. By comparison, playing wind instruments, like breathing, generates less particles that could carry the virus than speaking or singing.”


Source: University of Bristol 

30.06.2021

Read all latest stories

Related articles

Photo

News • Macrophages

Hunting for immune cells that predispose people to severe Covid-19

When a virus makes its way into the body, one of the immune system’s first responders is a set of pathogen-removal cells called macrophages. But they don’t all target viruses in the same way.

Photo

News • Global study finds increase in deaths

Why is Covid-19 more deadly on weekends?

A global analysis of nearly 6 million Covid-19 deaths finds an increase in mortality at weekends compared to weekdays. Bureaucratic and reporting delays alone do not explain this, researchers report.

Photo

News • Effective prevention

Covid-19 vaccination greatly reduces infectious viral load

By comparing the infectious viral load caused by ancestral SARS-CoV-2 as well as by the Delta and Omicron variants, scientists highlight the benefits of vaccination.

Related products

Beckman Coulter – SARS-CoV-2 Assays

Immunoassays

Beckman Coulter – SARS-CoV-2 Assays

Beckman Coulter Diagnostics
Lifotronic  SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Detection Kit

Immunoassays

Lifotronic SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Detection Kit

Lifotronic Technology Co., Ltd
Lifotronic – SARS-CoV-2 Antigen

Immunoassays

Lifotronic – SARS-CoV-2 Antigen

Lifotronic Technology Co., Ltd
Lifotronic – SARS-CoV-2 Nucleic Acid Detection Kit

Detection

Lifotronic – SARS-CoV-2 Nucleic Acid Detection Kit

Lifotronic Technology Co., Ltd
Subscribe to Newsletter