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Testing Wastewater for Opioids: North Carolina Town Pilot's New Technology

A new MIT startup wants to help more cities fight the opioid crisis by filtering wastewater to track drug use. One of the first cities to sign up to test biobot technology is Cary, North Carolina.

Mike Bajorek Cary's deputy city director says the goal is to promote and update opioid use dialogue Information for local health officials

"This is a proactive program," says Bajorek Here & Now 's Meghna Chakrabarti. "We do not try to catch people when they're addicted, what we're trying to do is end this addiction cycle before people get addicted, and so many families will be saved and strengthened if we manage to start the conversation . "

Interview Highlights

Why Cary Uses the New Technology

" Last year in Cary ̵

1; a city of about 162,000 people – we had six deaths due to overdoses and an additional 40 overdoses resulting from the use of Narcan That was an increase of 70 percent over the previous year, and while that does not seem to be going very much – at first there were 46 families who were very affected – but as our mayor constantly says, we are in crisis, in which we are in a perfect position to actually oppose the opioid epidemic because of the situation we are in. "

At his initial thought n when he stopped filtering wastewater

"I'll tell you When I heard about the measurement of wastewater for opioid metabolites, I said," Well, let's try that, "and we've failed miserably. Like any good bureaucrat, I said, "Okay, let's put that aside and try something else." But luckily we have some great people here in the city of Cary and they kept talking to people and connected us with Biobot Analytics, which is not necessarily new in measuring wastewater for opioid metabolites – they do a lot of it in Europe, some in Australia – that is what distinguishes them when we refer them from small, geographically different regions areas where we know the demographics of land use, a whole lot of other information, because it is a separate area, we can Give our public health officials a clearer picture of what's going on?

One when residents have expressed privacy concerns

"Yes, and I've asked these questions from myself, and I guess the first thing I always get on at first sight is the CDC in 2016, The more than 64,000 deaths were caused by overdoses. And if we have the opportunity to make a difference, why should not we? Then our smallest areas are about 10,000 people – 10,000 people in one day generate more than 500,000 gallons of sewage, about an Olympic pool worth of water in a day. And we will rehearse about 10 gallons of this Olympic pool. So it is thoroughly aggregated and would not be able to identify a particular citizen. "

On the city's plan, the screening shows that opioids pose a problem in a particular area or areas

" This is not a police investigation tool. Our police have much better ways of understanding and finding where illegal drugs are than spending money on wastewater measurement. We hope that we get baselines for different areas to really do two things: getting information or receiving information shows a higher degree of prescription opioid use than in other areas, or when there are illegal drugs a neighborhood is going to be a good place to have conversations, and that's what we're looking for to keep families talking about what's going on in their community, what's going on in their family [19659013] " Now, the second part is by giving this proactive information to our public health officials who are currently developing reactive data based programs – basically the number of overdose deaths, obsolete data, it takes six months to a year, to get an autopsy report identified what was actually the cause of death.I think through the information we develop They'll get near-real-time information about what's going on, and through predictive analysis and modeling, we hope someone more clever than myself will develop some correlation, "OK, if you look at this and that then these actions will take place "and be able to give this information to our public health officials so that they can develop programs that specifically meet those parameters, they are more cost efficient and you can react faster because we can measure again ,

Copyright NPR 2018.

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