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Last updated: August 13, 2019

What Does Bioassay Mean?

A bioassay determines the relative strength of a substance by comparing its effect on a test organism with that of a standard preparation. Bioassay can be used to conduct a wide range of experiments relating to toxicity of known chemical solutions or unknown mixtures such as samples of water, sediment, or soil from the environment.

Bioassays are typically conducted to measure the effects of a substance on a living organism and are essential in the development of new drugs and in monitoring environmental pollutants. Determining the substances and concentrations present in water can also help determine its potential for corrosivity.

Bioassay is commonly used shorthand for biological assay or biological standardization.


Corrosionpedia Explains Bioassay

A bioassay compares a test sample with an internationally applicable standard substance. It determines the quantity of test sample required to produce an equivalent biological response to that of standard substance. Environmental bioassays are generally a broad-range survey of toxicity. A toxicity identification evaluation is conducted to determine what the relevant toxic substances are.

Bioassays are statue requirements of some countries. For example, water pollution control requirements in the United States require some industrial dischargers and municipal sewage treatment plants to conduct bioassays. These procedures, called whole effluent toxicity tests, include acute toxicity tests as well as chronic test methods. The methods involve exposing living aquatic organisms to samples of wastewater.

The purposes of bioassays are:

  • Measurement of the pharmacological activity of new or chemically undefined substances
  • Investigation of the function of endogenous mediators
  • Measurement of the concentration of known substances (alternatives to the use of whole animals have made this use obsolete)
  • Assessing the amount of pollutants released by a particular source, such as wastewater or urban runoff

Although bioassays are beneficial in determining the biological activity within an organism, they can often be time consuming and laborious. Organism-specific factors may result in data that is not applicable to others in that species.



Biological Assay, Biological Standardization

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