Using social media to crowdsource collection of urine samples during a national pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown had a substantial impact on normal research operations. Researchers needed to adapt their methods to engage at-home participants. One method is crowdsourcing, in which researchers use social media to recruit participants, gather data, and collect samples. We utilized this method to develop a diagnostic test for Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome (IC/BPS). Participants were recruited via posts on popular social-media platforms, and enrolled via a website. Participants received and returned a mail kit containing bladder symptom surveys and a urine sample cup containing room-temperature preservative. Using this method, we collected 1254 IC/BPS and control samples in 3 months from all 50 United States. Our data demonstrate that crowdsourcing is a viable alternative to traditional research, with the ability to reach a broad patient population rapidly. Crowdsourcing is a powerful tool for at-home participation in research, particularly during the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.