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Experimental set-up to test how fish react to a specific toxin

Bioassay (short for English biological assay , "biological investigation") is the scientific term for the in vivo investigation of the effect that certain chemical substances have on living organisms. Bioassays are standardized tests with which substances are detected in a sample or, for example, the potency of drugs or toxins or the effect of pheromones is measured. Biostatistical methods are regularly used in quantitative bioassays .

Qualitative bioassays

Qualitative bioassays examine how high the dose of the substance of interest must be in order to trigger a certain effect. Examples:

A classic qualitative bioassay is the experiment by Arnold Adolph Berthold , who castrated male chicks and showed that their development into roosters was stopped because of the lack of sex hormones.

Quantitative bioassays

Quantitative bioassays examine the proportional relationships between dose and potency. Examples are the (desired) main effect as well as (undesirable) side effects of new drugs or the connection between adrenaline and blood pressure.

Practical applications

  • In the case of unknown substances, their effect on organisms, especially their toxicity, can be compared with that of a known substance.
  • In the USA, some industrial companies and also municipal sewage treatment plants are required to carry out regular bioassays in order to prove the harmlessness of their wastewater.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. .
  2. KM Dorries et al. (1997). Sensitivity and behavioral responses to the pheromone androstenone are not mediated by the vomeronasal organ in domestic pigs . Brain, Behavior and Evolution 49, pp. 53-62.
  3. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Washington, DC. "Methods for Measuring the Acute Toxicity of Effluents and Receiving Waters to Freshwater and Marine Organisms." October 2002. Document No. EPA-821-R-02-012.
  4. US EPA. "Whole Effluent Toxicity / Clean Water Act Analytical Methods." Retrieved December 16, 2008.


  • Manfred Olschewski, Siegfried Schach, Manfred Schumacher, Martin Schumacher: Bioassay . Volume 1 of work reports of the Statistics Department, University of Dortmund, 1979

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