News

NC city fighting opioid epidemic through the use of robots to test people’s poop

close


Video

N. C. first robot to test wastewater for opioid use

As opioid abuse continues to kill people throughout the country, there were 33,000 opioid-related deaths in 2016 – Cary, N. C., began with the help of a special device that indicates which areas of the city have a high opioid abuse by testing sewer water

CARY, N. C. – A small town in North Carolina, has a new way to fight the war on opioids: the use of robots to test people’s poop.

The approach is intended to help the city to identify, when the city is faced with a significant threat to the public health and what should be there is an intervention.

As opioid abuse continues to kill people throughout the country, there were 33,000 opioid-related deaths in 2016 – Cary, N. C., began with the help of a special device that indicates which areas of the city have a high opioid abuse by testing the sewage water.

It is the last strategy employed by officials in the small towns and countryside of those who were forced to fight against an epidemic plaguing the lives of an alarming number of people. Other cities monitor the use of opioids with the help of sewer-water – but Cary is the first city in the country that makes use of a portable device to do.

“If we have a problem – [there is a] 70 percent increase in the overdose last year – then the problem is very important in this country,” Cary Town Manager Sean stegall said. “We feel we can play a leading role in this.”

“If someone processes opioids through their body, they secrete a different type of victims of their body and in the sewer system,” said Project Manager Donald Smith.

(Fox News)

In May, the city management began a partnership with Massachusetts-based research firm Biobot Analytics. The company made a small potable device specially designed for testing of consumed opioids, so-called metabolites.

“If someone processes opioids through their body, they secrete a different type of victims of their body and in the sewer system,” said Project Manager Donald Smith.

The device, called an automated water sampler, looks like a miniature lab in a black pelican case. The members of the project team, the light weight of the container from the manholes in strategically selected areas. It takes two people to carefully lower the sampler a few feet away in a manhole. The floating box is a tube that dangles from the bottom of the device and into the flowing water.

“The device collects a small amount of the waste water and processes the waste water through the membranes in the course of 24 hours,” Smith said.

The results would not pinpoint who used the opioids, but identifying areas with a high concentration of users. Each of the city 10 devices can test the waste of 15,000 people, and the findings will be used as a marker to see whether the use of opioids is on the rise.

Many residents have been named to the device, saying, it is an important tool in the destructive battle against opioid abuse.

Experts say that it is a new approach.

“There is no privacy in your poop,” said criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor, Vinoo Varghese. “If you waste in the public you have given up any right to privacy.”

However, he said, the tactic could increase of privacy if the data collected is transferred to the enforcement of the law.

“If they are charging people with crimes… if it gets to that level, then the court can revisit the issue about privacy,” Varghese said. “But if it’s not so far, and it is used for, in principle, the data collection and medical purposes, to help in the fight against the crisis, then I don’t think that there is a basis to say that there is a violation of privacy.”

In May, the city management began a partnership with Massachusetts-based research firm Biobot Analytics.

(Fox News)

But some residents are still concerned about it.

Nzinga Speller, who recently moved to the Chicago area, said it was unclear where that information will end up.

“Who’s going to be using this information?” Speller asked. “What will they do? It will be accessible to the public?”

Biobot president and co-founder, Newsha Ghaeli said locations will receive, and the owner of the data, and communicate with the public.

“It really provides us with data that do not exist today to see what we can learn from that and then develop approaches after that,” stegall said.

Stegall said that he hopes that the information will be used by the public and private health care agencies as a way to combat the opioid crisis.

Doctors say that it provides a large baseline of data, but analyzing the results is not easy.

“There are so many factors in addition to genetics, in addition to environmental factors….Especially if individuals or communities age, ethnicity, gender….as well as the question of whether an individual has a liver or reno impairment….all these things determine how quickly we can break opioids and how much of the biproducts we measure in the urine,” Gastroenterologist Neeraj Sachdeva said.

Earlier this year, President Trump announces new plans to battle the country’s growing opioid epidemic.

Each of the city 10 devices can test the waste of 15,000 people, and the findings will be used as a marker to see whether the use of opioids is on the rise.

(Fox News)

Ghaeli said the idea is aligned with Trump’s mission.

“The Chairman of the Commission on Combating drug addiction and the Opioid Crisis has recommended (p60) that data collection systems need to be improved and the gaps in the data that need to be filled and revived with the help of these new approaches, such as testing of waste water in a very restricted regions for the estimation of drug metabolites,” Ghaeli said in a statement.

Sachdeva said the course of the years, the information gathered will be of inestimable value.

City management expects that the first data phase is completed in September. After the city can apply for additional grants for the funding of the program.

Other cities, such as Tempe, Arizona., also try to take more fecal studies in their response to the opioid crisis.

Terrace Garnier is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Columbia, South Carolina. Follow her on twitter: @TeraceGarnier

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular