Test with Luminescent Bacteria

Test organism

  • Marine luminescent bacterium (Vibrio fischeri)

Detectable effects (impact)

  • Inhibition of bioluminescence (unspecific toxicity)

Test principle

  • Based on the inhibition of the enzyme luciferase, which oxidises luciferin to generate light. Positive results indicate that a substance interferes with the energy metabolism of the cell.
  • Effects of chemicals or environmental samples on the bioluminescence of the bacteria are measured after an exposure time of 30 min.

Flow Chart

Test duration

  • approx. 0.5 days (exposure time: 30 min)


  • Screening test for the toxicity of unknown samples
  • Standard test organism for water quality evaluation (e.g. OECD, ISO, US EPA)
  • Common in wastewater analyses and partly stipulated in ordinances (e.g. German Wastewater Ordinance)

Guidelines and literature

  • International Organization for Standardization (2007). Water quality -- Determination of the inhibitory effect of water samples on the light emission of Vibrio fischeri (Luminescent bacteria test) -- Part 3: Method using freeze-dried bacteria. EN ISO 11348-3.
  • Escher BI, Bramaz N, Mueller JF, Quayle P, Rutishauser S, Vermeirssen ELM (2008). Toxic equivalent concentrations (TEQs) for baseline toxicity and specific modes of action as a tool to improve interpretation of ecotoxicity testing of environmental samples. J. Environ. Monit. 10, 612-621.