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© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York. A promising new strategy in antibacterial research is inhibition of the bacterial communication system termed quorum sensing. In this study, a novel and rapid pre-screening method was developed to detect the production of chemical inhibitors of this system (quorum-quenching compounds) by bacteria isolated from marine and estuarine waters. This method involves direct screening of mixed populations on an agar plate, facilitating specific isolation of bioactive colonies. The assay showed that between 4 and 46 % of culturable bacteria from various samples were bioactive, and of the 95 selectively isolated bacteria, 93.7 % inhibited Vibrio harveyi bioluminescence without inhibiting growth, indicating potential production of quorum-quenching compounds. Of the active isolates, 21 % showed further activity against quorum-sensing-regulated pigment production by Serratia marcescens. The majority of bioactive isolates were identified by 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) amplification and sequencing as belonging to the genera Vibrio and Pseudoalteromonas. Extracts of two strongly bioactive Pseudoalteromonas isolates (K1 and B2) were quantitatively assessed for inhibition of growth and quorum-sensing-regulated processes in V. harveyi, S. marcescens and Chromobacterium violaceum. Extracts of the isolates reduced V. harveyi bioluminescence by as much as 98 % and C. violaceum pigment production by 36 % at concentrations which had no adverse effect on growth. The activity found in the extracts indicated that the isolates may produce quorum-quenching compounds. This study further supports the suggestion that quorum quenching may be a common attribute among culturable planktonic marine and estuarine bacteria.