Ethidium bromide

David Micklem dmicklem at cmgm.nospam.invalid
Wed Jul 18 06:00:27 EST 2001

In article <3b5528b7$1 at>, Bruno Cenni
<bruno.removethis.cenni at> wrote:

>...untreated sleeping sickness kills. And since there (still) are no really
>good/safe drugs for its treatment, drugs that work in 90% of the patients
>but lead to severe (ie deadly) complications in 10% are still used (that's
>for melarsoprol an organo-arsenic compound, not EtBr). Now, if you're NOT
>affected by sleeping sickness you may not want to take that risk...

Fair point - but the historical use of EtBr should provide some data as
to whether the risk of deadly complications is 10% or 0.0000001%. And
were any complications due to the acute toxicity of ethidium bromide or
genetic effects?

>We used EtBr to differentiate apoptotic/necrotic/live unfixed cells in the
>microscope, those with an intact cell membrane won't stain with EtBr because
>it's charged and won't enter...

Which surely suggests that it is unlikely to _actually_ be a serious
human mutagen since it is unable to enter live cells.

I'm not advocating taking a bath in the stuff, but is there any
available _evidence_  to justify EtBr's role as the bogeyman of the
mol-bio lab?  

There are a lot of hazardous materials/procedures in mol-bio labs but
none of the others seem to generate quite the sort of safety-hysteria
that EtBr does.


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
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