Ethidium brouhaha: exorcising the EtBr demon from wimpy researchers


Ethidium bromide is a celebrity stain, and a very tainted one, in molecular biology. Its stigmatisation as a toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic chemical has stirred an uncalled-for but what seems like a calculated hysteria among researchers. This has merely actuated what can be described as a necessary advertising war. The so-called safer alternatives are not overwhelmingly superior or entirely safe. For example, SYBR Green is, by evidence, more mutagenic. They may be regarded as optional, but at a higher financial cost. If anyone feels safer with extravagance, then the optional stains are an obvious choice. EtBr had been the principal drug for the mass treatment of cattle trypanosomiasis since the early 1950s, and no cancer has been reported among cattle. There are researchers who has handled the chemical throughout their career for decades, and none had made any complaint whatsoever. There is no medical record of molecular biologists taking cancer therapy because of EtBr. Milk producers are using it in large quantities. To the further extreme, people have actually drunk it without any apparent adverse effect. This is a lesson to learn that this is a case of bad meme and people have put an undue stain to this useful stain.

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