ct scan

If you’re seriously ill or have a physical injury, what tool do you want the doctor to use to help understand the problem? Would you prefer a stethoscope or a CT scan?

The stethoscope was invented in 1816 by RenĂ© Laennec, a French physician. It’s a cheap tool that can provide a small amount of information quickly. It may shed some light on some health issues but is very limited on what it can tell a doctor.

In contrast, the CT (computed tomography) scan was invented in 1972 and is able to provide an image of the entire body inside and out. This modern technology is more expensive and takes a bit more time but also provides much more information. A CT scan can even show small issues before they cause any problems, so they can be treated to prevent future disease.

I find this analogy useful in explaining why DNA sequencing is important for wastewater treatment plants. Explaining this tool can be difficult as most people in the industry have no working knowledge of DNA as it’s a relatively new tool.

Microscopes and culture tests have been the primary tools used to understand and troubleshoot wastewater treatment plants for decades. Much like stethoscopes, these tools are hundreds of years old, they provide a small amount of information relatively quickly and cheaply, and they require a skilled user. Microscopes and culture tests only identify about 1%of bacteria in a sample. In contrast, modern DNA sequencing technology can identify and quantify nearly all microbes in a sample. Much like a CT scan, this allows us to see many things that were previously invisible. Now we can see ammonia removing bacteria dropping in abundance and we can take action before it becomes a permit violation. This tool enables us to be proactive. We can also see biop bacteria, filaments and methanogens. Monitoring this data provides new opportunities to avoid permit violations and to optimize nutrient removal and digestion processes which can reduce chemical and energy consumption, saving big money. The best way to see the value in DNA testing is to start doing it. See your data and finally know what’s growing in your treatment plant. It’s an easy process. Simply buy a kit online. The sampling and shipping process is streamlined so it only takes a few minutes. If you have any questions please contact us. We look forward to partnering with you to bring DNA technology to the wastewater industry to improve operations and reduce costs and uncertainty.