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Learn more about bioassays

What is a bioassay?

A bioassay is a test that uses living material: cells, organic tissues, microorganisms, plants or animals, which become biologically reactive.

Bioassays essentially aim to measure the effects or the impacts of certain substances, unlike conventional tests that determine the concentrations of substances. "Effect-based methods” is another name for them, which is used in official European and international texts.

Why use bioassays?

The benefit of bioassays is that they provide an overview of water quality.

Rather than testing hundreds of chemicals, their impact on living organisms is assessed, taking into account the overall effect of the contaminants present (the cocktail effect).

Depending on the type of living organism used, bioassays will determine whether toxicity is linked to the action of metals, pesticides, hormones or drugs.

Tame-Water tests will thus provide clear-cut answers for each of the various types of chemical toxicity.

What is the cocktail effect?

Cocktail effect refers to the phenomenon whereby a mixture of contaminants can have impacts on living organisms that individual substances do not, either in terms of intensity or types of toxicity.

The cocktail effect cannot be revealed in a regulatory physico-chemical analysis.

Bioassays have the specificity of detecting effects on living organisms and by nature can integrate all types of stressors. They are therefore the only effective way to approach the issue. Physico-chemical analyses can be used as a second step to specify the components present.

Who does the bioassays?

Tame-Water, born from a CNRS spin-off, specializes in the monitoring and comprehensive assessment of water quality through bioassays. Tame-Water also conducts other types of analyses targeting micro-plastics or the biodegradability of chemical components.

Tame-Water conducts conventional standard bioassays such as ISO 6341 or ISO 11348 as part of its offerings. However, the problem of modern pollution calls for the deployment of innovative solutions.

Tame-Water therefore offers state-of-the-art proprietary bioassay kits that comply with the quality principles of current standards.

Do field bioassays exist?

Tame-Water offers multi-organism and multi-effect bioassays, conducted in a laboratory, that provide a wealth of information and that are unparalleled on the market.

Relying on its expertise of more than two decades, Tame-Water has now developed a new line of field toximeters.

Our Field Toximeters are bioassay water quality analyzers that are transportable on site. They can be used in a laboratory or on a production or treatment site.

What are the European guidelines on bioassays?

The obligations for results relating to Good Ecological Status from the WFD and the RSDE in France explicitly call for an integrated approach to monitoring and assessing surface water quality. These assessments must take into account biological effects at the population/community level and that of the local aquatic fauna and flora, based on specific ecological quality indices. This leaves ample scope for the in-lab use of bioassays on organisms and cell cultures.

Specifically, the Regulation’s Common Implementation Strategies mention the importance of bioassays within the broader framework of the means and ends of the WFD. In particular, document no.19 "Surface water chemical monitoring" refers to bioassays when discussing the need to introduce techniques to improve the quality of assessments and to reduce the cost of assessments as new tools become available.

Document no.3 "Analysis of Pressures and Impacts" calls for consideration of the potential risk of cumulative effects from substances with similar modes of action in pressure and impact assessments ("cocktail effect"), which is one of the strengths of biological effects-based methods.

Documents 7, 25 and 27 also refer to bioassays, particularly in the context of sediment measurements.

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