Wastewater Epidemiology: Estimating Opioid Usage from Sewage

Project Partner: Biobot Analytics, Winter and Spring 2020

Project Summary: Biobot Analytics collects data from cities’ sewage networks that can be used to estimate illicit drug consumption within a given wastewater catchment. For instance, by measuring the quantity of metabolites uniquely associated with fentanyl consumption, Biobot can provide estimates of opioid consumption within a catchment, providing near real time information to inform the fight against the opioid epidemic. But how much uncertainty is inherent in these estimates? This question was the focus of David’s project. By acknowledging the interdependencies between the large amount of metabolites measured by Biobot sensors and using a Bayesian framework, David was able to refine consumption estimates and quantify uncertainty.

Biobot Analytics uses sensors in sewage infrastructure to measure analytes uniquely associated with human fentanyl consumption (and excretion). In doing so, Biobot can infer the level of opioid consumption in a catchment (population serving part of a sewer system). For David’s URBAN internship, he helped Biobot quantify the uncertainty around their drug consumption estimates using Bayesian statistics. (Image credit: David Reynolds)

Project Deliverables: Created a website on github explaining how to use hierarchical modeling to incorporate the results of previous scientific research into a current study, using the work with Biobot as an example. Visit here.