Genome Sequencing of Dog Poop: For the Doghouse?
Moore’s Law is a well-known trend in the computing industry, which suggests that hardware capabilities double every two years. Until recently, genome sequencing costs were following about the same pattern as Moore’s Law, decreasing at a steady rate. In 2008, however, a shift occurred, and the cost of DNA sequencing became dramatically lower than what Moore’s Law would have predicted, making sequencing DNA much more affordable and accessible.
This accessibility is likely due to a surge of new companies that are involved in genetic sequencing. It seems like everyone and their dog is doing it (just wait for it). One of the more striking of these new companies is PooPrints, based out of Knoxville, Tennessee. The mandate of PooPrints is to help you catch the nasty neighbors who are leaving dog poop around your community by sequencing the DNA of any stray feces.
The company supplies property managers and homeowners’ associations with DNA oral swab kits, which are then submitted to the global pet registry. When property managers find poop lying around, they use the analogous test kit to gather a sample, which can be sent to the BioPet Vet Lab to match the DNA to the culprit in the pet registry system. PooPrints returns their findings to the property managers, who can use the information to fine or otherwise publically humiliate careless owners.
Human disease control improved drastically with both the invention of the toilet and the removal of the cesspool as a common waste disposal system. So one might think the same attention to waste management should be applied to our pets. A single gram of dog waste can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims this waste can contain roundworms and other parasitic nematodes. Severe infection with roundworms can have numerous health consequences, such as fever, bronchitis, asthma, or vision impairment.
Wildlife waste, such as bird droppings, does have the potential to pollute our drinking water. The poop of our canine friends, however, may be a much larger contributor to waste pollution than many expect. In a study of watersheds surrounding the Seattle, Washington area, the EPA has shown that 20% of the bacteria found in water samples can be attributed to dogs.
While I completely understand the necessity for a cleaner environment, PooPrints just seems like an extreme measure to increase owner accountability. However, in a world where motivation is so tightly wound to monetary gain (or loss), perhaps tugging on the pockets of owners is the only way to get their attention.