Wastewater: An Untapped Resource for Opioid Abuse Data

One tech startup is looking for five cities to test how wastewater can reveal opioid abuse data on a neighborhood level.

Biobot Analytics is using technology to transform sewers into public health observatories, according to its website. The health of a community is contained in the secret of its wastewater -- and discoveries about opioid abuse can be found there.

The company analyzes wastewater samples, presenting a new source of opioid abuse data that cities already own.

According to Biobot Analytics, those working to combat the opioid epidemic are currently relying on data limited to overdoses and emergency calls. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based tech startup that won a pitch competition judged by mayors at South by Southwest last month in Austin, as reported by Governing, suggest the data is limited -- representing only about 4 percent of people who suffer from opioid use disorder.

The Biobot Analytics' Opioid Consumption Monitoring (OCM) Program measures opioid and other drugs in sewage to estimate overall consumption in cities.

"This data enables those working on harm reduction to assess opioid use in their communities, decide how to allocate resources and evaluate interventions over time," according to the company's website.

Resulting data is an aggregated, anonymized picture of opioid use that can be performed by neighborhood.

It’s a very creative way to use a source of untapped data. Who thinks about measuring wastewater?” said Fort Worth, Texas, Mayor Betsy Price, who was one of the judges. “This is another way to use city assets that we don’t think about to hit a problem like opioids or public health in general.”

Biobot received $10,000 for the pitch competition and will present at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting.

However, the company is looking for five cities to participate in a pilot study that will measure opioids and other drugs in sewage that estimates drug consumption at the neighborhood level.

Learn more and access the form to apply on Biobot.io.

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