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Bioassays and aquatic contamination control

We are an interdisciplinary group consisting of teachers, professionals and students from the Engineering and Science faculties and IBUN. Our objective is to make available biological tools leading to detecting the toxicity produced by the presence of chemical contaminants in different environmental matrices. Forming part of this line, the group has proposed studying the microbial communities present in anaerobic treatment systems aimed at a better understanding of the variables controlling these populations’ dynamics. In turn, this would better management and application of such technology, especially regarding industrial effluents containing toxic chemical contaminants. We are currently seeking to apply these tools in analysing the risks for human health and ecosystems due to their exposure to the toxic substances present in industrial effluents and surface water. We are also seeking to apply these tools to the toxicological evaluation of plant extracts having medicinal use for establishing the risks to human health involved in their uncontrolled use.

Toxicity tests have been evaluated and standardised with different biological models (Daphnia magna, Daphnia obtusa, Ceriodaphnia dubia, Hydra attenuata, Selenastrum capricornutum, Lactuca sativa and Salmonella typhimurium). This has enabled acute and chronic toxicity and mutagenicity to be measured in different industrial effluents, surface and subterranean waters, anaerobic treatment plants and plant extracts. The possibility of incorporating these results in risk analysis is being studied, thereby leading to better management of contamination by toxic chemical substances. The detoxification of anaerobic bacterial consortiums able to dehalogenate halogenated organic compounds is also being evaluated at reactor and laboratory level; these would later be able to be used in treatment and bioremediation. Tests for detecting vegetal extract genotoxicity (Cometa assay) and mutagenicity (Ames’ assay) have been initiated.

  • We have a battery of toxicity tests for characterising residual water, surface and subterranean waters, sediments, soil and dangerous solid waste (the latter being regulated by IDEAM).
  • We have a package of simple, low-cost tests which has led to our group participating in technology transfer workshops (PAHO/CEPIS/IDRC from the “AQUATOX” programme – youth, science, the environment and health for primary and secondary students and teachers.
  • We have shown that the tests so developed can be used for evaluating plant extracts having phytotherapeutic potential (i.e. Sida rhombifolia and Garcinia madruro).
  • Inter-calibration exercises (WATERTOX network - Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, the Ukraine and India) have shown that these tests are reproducible and replicable.
  • During the last five years we have participated in research with and the training of eight students for their MSc in Environmental Engineering and Microbiology, we have participated in 23 national and international events and have 12 publications, including books and research articles.


DÍAZ - BÁEZ, M. C. , ESPINOSA - RAMÍREZ A., CORTÉS SALAZAR, A., 2008. “Evaluación de la toxicidad de un efluente hospitalario con una batería de bioensayos multitrófica” Libro: Sociedad de Toxicología y Química Ambiental (SETAC) Latinoamérica. Argentina. SETAC (en impresión).
VALDERRAMA, J. D. y DÍAZ - BÁEZ, M. C. 2007. Evaluación de la Capacidad Dehalogenante de un Lodo Anaerobio. En: Sánchez, J. (e): Potencial Biotecnológico de Microorganismos en Ecosistemas Naturales y Agro ecosistemas. Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Bogota, ps. 292-301.
GRACIA, M. C., ARBELI, Z., PLAZAS, E. C., DÍAZ - BÁEZ, M.C. 2007. Reductive dehalogenation of trichlorophenol, in sediment from Rio - Bogotá, Colombia: the potential for intrinsic bioremediation and biostimulation. World Journal of Microbiology & Biotechnology: On line: Short Communication. April, 2007.
DÍAZ BÁEZ, M. C., ESPINOSA RAMÍREZ, A. J., SEGURA, M. A. 2006. “Efecto tóxico de una mezcla de cromo y cobre sobre tres biomodelos acuáticos” En: Memorias VII Seminario Colombiano de Limnología y Primera Reunión Internacional de Ríos y Humedales. Volumen 1. Universidad del Tolima - Asociación Colombiana de Limnología ACL - Limnos 11-15 Septiembre de 2006. Ibagué. ISBN 958-33-9792-X. p. 142-148
ARBELI, Z., RONEN, Z., DÍAZ - BÁEZ, M. C. 2006. Reductive dehalogenation of tetrabromobisphenol- A by sediment 3 from a contaminated ephemeral streambed and an enrichment culture. Chemosphere: 64 (9):1472-1478.
RONCO, A., CASTILLO, G., DÍAZ - BAEZ, M. C., BULUS, G., AHUMADA, I., ESPINOZA, A., MENDOZA, J., SOBRERO, C., APARTIN, C. 2005. The application of Hazard Assessment Schemes using the Watertox toxicity testing battery. In: Blaise, C. and Férard, J. F. (eds.). Smallscale Freshwater Toxicity Investigations (Volume 2, Hazard Assessment Schemes), Springer Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pages 233-256.
DIAZ - BÁEZ, M. C. , AND DUTKA, J.B. 2004. Frameworks for the Application of Toxicity Data. In: THOMPSON, K. C., WADHIA, K. and LOIBNER, A. P. Environmental Toxicity Testing. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Sheffield, U. K.
DÍAZ - BÁEZ, M. C. , BULUS, G. RONCO, A. , SOBRERO, C. , PICA - GRANADOS, Y., FEOLA, G., FORGET, G. y SÁNCHEZ, A. 2004. En: Castillo, G. (Ed.) Ensayos Toxicológicos y Métodos de Evaluación de Calidad de Aguas: Estandarización, Intercalibración, Resultados y Aplicaciones. IDRC - IMTA, México.
DÍAZ - BÁEZ, M. C. , BUSTOS, M. C. Y ESPINOSA, A. J. . 2004. Pruebas de Toxicidad Acuática: Fundamentos y Métodos. Colección Textos. Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Sede Bogotá. Unibiblios. Bogotá.
GARCÍA CHÁVES, M. C. y DÍAZ - BÁEZ, M. C. 2003. Evaluación de la toxicidad de un efluente cervecero mediante ensayos de inhibición de la actividad metanogénica. Revista Colombiana de Biotecnología. Vol. 5, No. 2. pp. 23-31.
COLLAZOS, C. y DÍAZ - BÁEZ, M. C. . 2003. Biodegradabilidad Anaerobia de Efluentes Cerveceros. Ingeniería e Investigación. 52: 54-62.
CASTILLO, G., DÍAZ - BÁEZ, M.C. 2003. Red Watertox: Diagnóstico de toxicidad en aguas de Latinoamérica. En: Toxicología y Química Ambiental: Contribuciones para un desarrollo sustentable. Sociedad de Toxicología y Química Ambiental (SETAC) Latinoamérica. Argentina.

Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Carrera 45 No 26-85 - Edificio Uriel Gutiérrez
Bogotá D.C. - Colombia