Strain degeneration in solventogenic clostridia is a known problem in the technical acetone-butanol fermentation bioprocess, especially in the continuous process mode. Clostridial strain degeneration was studied by Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy of the bacterial cells. Degenerative variant formation in two strains, Clostridium beijerinckii NCIMB 8052 and Clostridium species AA332, was detected spectroscopically. Colonies on solid media were sampled, or assayed directly in situ by IR microscopy. It has previously been shown that the distinctive acidogenic and solventogenic physiological phases of Clostridium acetobutylicum in liquid medium can be discriminated by FT-IR spectroscopy. This was confirmed here for C. beijerinckii NCIMB 8052. The proportion of degenerate cells in a mixed population in liquid medium could be quantified, as the spectral features change in different ways during the normal growth cycle of wild type organisms and degenerate variants in batch culture. This opens a new perspective for physiology-based process monitoring and control, especially of the continuous acetone-butanol fermentation.