Paternity DNA testing is a type of genetic fingerprinting (or profiling) used to determine if two individuals have a biological parental correlation. They constitute genetic proof that a man is the biological father of the specific individual. Grandparental biological correlation is also confirmable through these tests.
Paternity DNA tests found their rudimentary beginnings in the 1920s, with the discovery of blood typing. They were based on the possible blood type combinations shared between parents and their children. This method, however, was limited at best since it could exclude 30% of the population from potential fatherhood. The 1930s brought upon the serological testing of blood proteins, which was able to exclude up to 40%. Quick fast forward to 1983 when PCR (polymerase chain reaction) became available, with a 99.99%+ exclusion rate.
Viable Test Specimens
Most DNA tests today (not just paternity) are done through collected blood, saliva or buccal cells samples. Buccal cells and saliva can be collected via cheek swabs or collection containers, respectively.
It is very important to note that DNA is exactly the same throughout our bodies, so blood and saliva provide equally accurate results. Blood processing is mostly done for the purposes of prenatal paternity tests, which we’ll describe later in detail.
If the potential father is deceased, however, blood and saliva are not viable testing options anymore. As we said, DNA cells are identical throughout our body, so we can use pretty much any part of it as a suitable replacement.
Instead of blood and saliva, we can also use:
- Organ tissue and muscles
- Hair (only with roots attached)
- Frequently used items such as toothbrush, cigarette butts, chewing gums, etc.
A slight caveat, though. These “alternative” specimens require particular treatment in order to maximize the chances of collecting enough viable DNA. The success in these situations also depends on the storage and handling before the sample arrives at the lab. Special treatment and extra work also increase the price of the DNA test.
Types Of Paternity DNA Testing
This area of genetic fingerprinting consists of the following options:
- “Regular” paternity DNA test – The samples are compared, searching for common genetic “fingerprints.” The test is 99.99% accurate. The mother can participate too, which makes the test much easier and quicker, but her presence is not required or necessary.
- Invasive prenatal paternity test – The procedures used to determine the father-child connection between two individuals are called CVS (chorionic villus sampling) and amniocentesis. CVS retrieves placental tissue (chorionic villus) in either the transabdominal or transcervical manner. Amniocentesis extracts amniotic fluid via a needle inserted into the future mother’s stomach. These procedures are extremely accurate, but they increase the risk of miscarriage.
- Non-invasive prenatal paternity test – As early as 8 weeks into the pregnancy, the baby’s DNA starts flowing freely into the mother’s bloodstream. This DNA can be harvested and analyzed without any dangers for the fetus or potential miscarriage risk.
All of the tests yield results rather quickly, usually within 2-3 work days.
Legal And Non-Legal Paternity DNA Tests
The main difference is not the legality of the test itself, but rather whether it can be used as a legally binding document or not. If you need proof of paternity for a court appointment, immigration scenario, child support or similar instances, you’ll have to go the legal route. This means you’ll have to do the test in a certified institution such as a hospital, health department or medical office.
The non-legal variation, which is also called “the curiosity test,” doesn’t bear legal consequences and the sample can be collected in the privacy of your home. Legal tests are always more expensive, starting at about 300$. Non-legal ones start at around 150$.