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To improve bead ingestion counts in Tetrahymena pyriformis by automated image analysis as an alternative to direct-counts.Fluorescent latex beads were added to T. pyriformis cultures for ingestion tests. The number of beads ingested by 25 cells was counted directly by epifluorescence microscopy and compared with similar data from image analysis. ANOVA indicated that counts were not significantly different (P < 0·05). The image analysis particularly provided advantages in terms of speed.The image analysis is superior to direct beads counting in T. pyriformis particularly in terms of speed of analysis.The image analysis method is very rapid and will allow many more toxicological analyses to be undertaken with less operator error.