LumiMARA ecotoxicity test

LumiMARA uses the reduction in light output by 11 luminescent species of  marine and freshwater bacteria to give a measure of toxicity. It offers a more genetically diverse alternative to ecotoxicity testing using a single luminescent strain of bacteria, and includes a strain of Aliibrio fischeri (previously known as Vibrio fischeri) equivalent to that referenced in ISO 11348-3. We offer a testing services and supply kits.

photo of LumiMARA microbial ecotoxicology test kit including three reagent bottles, a box of lumimara strains and two vials of lumiMARA strains

Ecotoxicology testing

Ecotoxicology testing gives an insight into the impact that chemicals or industrial effluents could have on the environment. It can also be a useful tool for assessing sites or environmental samples for the presence of toxic compounds. Testing involves exposing living organisms to samples and assessing the effect. Living organisms commonly used for testing can include bacteria, algae, crustacea and fish.

Benefits of bacteria for ecotoxicology testing

Bacteria have a number of benefits for ecotoxicity testing compared to higher order organisms:

  1. Convenient format: bacteria are small and easy to handle in large numbers, so testing can be carried out in a test tube or microtiter plate.
  2. Fast: bacteria grow and respond quickly to the presence of toxins, so test results can be obtained quickly.
  3. No ethical issues: testing with microorganisms has none of the ethical issues associated with testing with higher order organisms such as fish.

Ecotoxicological testing with luminescent bacteria is described in ISO 11348-3:2007

The use of bacterial bioassays to assess toxicity is well established, and single species bacterial tests are commonly used across a broad range of industry and environmental applications because they are convenient to use, and give rapid results. The best known microbial exotoxicity tests make use of the naturally luminescent bacteria Aliivibrio fischeri (previously known as Vibrio fischeri). These tests are based on the fact that exposure to toxins disrupts the bacteria's respiratory processes, which in turn results in a reduction in light output. Reduction in light output is an easily measurable response that can be used to assess the toxicity of samples. ISO 11348-3:2007 describes a method for the determination of the inhibitory effect of water samples on the light emission of Vibrio fischeri.

LumiMARA: multispecies microbial ecotoxicity tests

NCIMB's LumiMARA ecotoxicology assay makes use of the genetic diversity of bacteria and the ease with which they can be handled, to take the concept of the microbial bioassay a step beyond single species testing.

Ecotoxicity testing using bacteria is generally based around assessment of the acute toxicity response of a single strain of Aliivibrio fischeri whereas  LumiMARA uses 11 strains and includes both marine and freshwater bacteria.


Benefits of a multispecies test

Data from previous work illustrates the benefit of using the multispecies LumiMARA test in comparison to testing using the single species of A. fischeri specified in the ISO standard.

When the 11 different species within the test are exposed to the sample they display a range of different responses. The results obtained can be analysed in relation to the most sensitive strain within the test, or the mean result of all strains.

The chart below shows the toxicity response of the A. fischeri strain compared to the response of the most sensitive strain within the LumiMARA test and the overall LumiMARA result.

It shows that in some cases, testing with A. fischeri alone shows little or no toxic effect when both the most sensitive strain and the mean result reveal high levels of toxicity.


Application in the oil and gas industry

The Oslo and Paris Commission (OSPAR) Recommendation 2012/5 requires contracting parties, of which the UK is one, to implement a risk-based approach for the management of produced water from offshore oil and gas installations. NCIMB’s MARA and LumiMARA bioassays are recommended by the UK’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), as part of their preferred approach to achieving this. More information about this environmental guidance can be found here.

Want to find out more?

We provide an ecotoxicity testing service at our Aberdeen laboratories and also supply LumiMARA test kits for use in your own laboratory.  Please contact us for more information about the service or to request a quote.

You might also be interested in:

LumiMARA pdf
UK RBA program
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