The test that changed the world: The Ames test and the regulation of chemicals

Mutat Res. 2019 May;841:43-48. doi: 10.1016/j.mrgentox.2019.05.007. Epub 2019 May 15.


The bacterial strains and mutagenicity test procedure developed by Bruce Ames, and published in 1973, greatly enhanced the ability of laboratories to test chemicals for mutagenicity. The test that became known as the "Ames Test" was simple to perform, took only two days, was relatively inexpensive, and was easily transferrable to other laboratories. Their demonstration that the test was effective at identifying potentially carcinogenic chemicals led its immediate adoption, and requirement, by regulatory authorities world-wide. Despite the development of other microbial and mammalian cell tests to measure mutation or other genetic damage, the Ames test still retains a primary role in the testing of chemicals for commercial use.

Keywords: Ames test; Genetic toxicity history; Mutagenicity; Salmonella.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Mammals
  • Mutagenicity Tests / methods*
  • Mutagens / toxicity*
  • Mutation / drug effects


  • Carcinogens
  • Mutagens