Ethidium bromide

David Micklem dmicklem at cmgm.nospam.invalid
Tue Jul 17 15:25:26 EST 2001

In article <3b544827$1 at>, Roland Hubner
<roland.hubner at> wrote:


> If sodium azide has been so well studied, I suspect that for EtBr 
>(highly mutagenic to procaryotes! -- bacteria in Ames test etc.) some 
>published work should be around, right?

Ah, the hysteria surrounding ethidium bromide! How many of you out
there know grad students who have given themselves a 'sunburn' on the
shortwave UV gel box (UV exposure = well established risk factor for
melanoma) while being ultra-paranoid about the ethidium bromide
(apparently an acute irritant, but evidence for other harmful effects
seems elusive).

Does anyone have a reference for the Ames test result for ethidium
bromide? The MSDS lists Ethidium bromide as:
carcinogenicity - NTP: No
carcinogenicity - IARC: No
carcinogenicity - OSHA: No

 but doesn't seem to mention the Ames test.

Now I realise that carcinogenicity is not equivalent to mutagenicity
but still...

Also, I believe EthBr binds rather well to proteins, so it may be
unlikely to make it through the skin, let alone into the nucleus.

Someone else mentioned they'd heard of its use as an anti-sleeping
sickness therapeutic drug (for cattle). I think that is documented in
the Merck Index but I don't have access to a copy at the moment. It
would be interesting to know whether anyone ever looked for/found
adverse effects on the cattle.


D.R. Micklem,              Time flies like an arrow... 
Dept. of Anatomy,          Fruit flies like a banana.
Cambridge University,      Email:dmicklem at 
Cambridge, UK              Phone: +44 (1223) 333776
Unsolicited email will incur a US$100 processing charge.

More information about the Methods mailing list