NC town battles opioid epidemic by using robots to test people’s poop - World Truth

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Friday, July 13, 2018

NC town battles opioid epidemic by using robots to test people’s poop

“There’s no privacy in your poop,” said criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Vinoo Varghese. “Once you place garbage out in the public you’ve given up any rights to privacy.”

He said, however, the tactic could raise privacy concerns if the data collected is turned over to law enforcement.

“If they are charging people with crimes… if it gets to that level then the courts may revisit the issue about privacy,” Varghese said. “But if it doesn’t go that far, and it’s used for basically data collection and medical purposes to help fight the crisis, then I don’t think there is any basis to say there’s an invasion of privacy.”

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In May, the town's management began a partnership with Massachusetts-based research company Biobot Analytics.  (Fox News)

But some residents are still raising concerns.

Nzinga Speller, who recently moved to the area from Chicago, said it’s unclear where that data will end up.

“Who’s going to be using this information?” Speller asked. “What are they going to be doing with it? Will it be accessible to the public?”

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

“It really provides us with data that doesn’t exist today to see what we can learn from that and then develop approaches after that,” Stegall said.

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

Doctors say it provides a great baseline of data, but analyzing the results isn't easy.

“There are so many factors in addition to genetics, in addition to environmental factors.…Certainly as individuals or communities age, ethnicity, sex….as well as whether an individual has hepatic or reno impairment….all these things determine how fast we break down opioids and how much of the biproducts we measure in the urine,” Gastroenterologist Neeraj Sachdeva said.

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

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Each of the town’s 10 devices can test waste from 15,000 residents, and the findings will be used as a marker to see whether opioid use is on the rise.  (Fox News)

Ghaeli said the idea aligns with Trump's mission.

“The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis has recommended (p60) that data collection systems need to be improved and the data gaps need to be filled and revitalized using such novel approaches, such as testing wastewater in highly circumscribed regions for estimating drug metabolites,” Ghaeli said in a statement.

Sachdeva said over the years, the information gathered will be invaluable.

City management expects the first data phase to be completed by September. After that, the town can apply for additional grants to fund the program.

Other cities, such as Tempe, Ariz., are also trying to incorporate more fecal studies into their response to the opioid crisis.

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