Recent advances in DNA paternity tests have combined with a greater public awareness so that more is known about DNA screening than ever before. However, the public does not understand everything, and there are still many misconceptions about the technique.

In order to help with this, we urge you to consider these five questions that people commonly ask before submitting to the DNA testing procedure.

1. Is DNA testing the Best Way of Proving Biological Relationships?

There is no more accurate way of determining the paternity or maternity of a child than comparing the DNA of the child with prospective parents. Previous analysis of blood groups might prove that a particular person was not the parent, but not that they were. DNA screening can prove with 100% certainty that a person is not the parent, and 99.9%+ that they are.

2. What’s the Difference Between a Paternity Test Done at Home and a Legal Test?

The test itself is the same in each case. It is ensuring the identity of the person being tested that is the difference. At-Home paternity tests are also known as ‘Curiosity Tests’ and ‘Peace of Mind Tests’, and for that, you can order a kit online and have it posted to you. You collect your own samples yourself.

To do that, you take an oral swab from inside your cheek or that of the person being tested, and send it off for testing. Your kit will include labels and consent documentation, and instructions together with terms and conditions.

With a Legal DNA Paternity Test, however, the samples must be collected by a third party such as a nurse or GP, who will verify the identity of the person being tested. The testing is carried out in the same way, but these steps are essential so that legal proof of the identity of the person providing the sample is established.

3. How Can I Choose the Best Test Lab?

There are accreditations provided to testing laboratories, so to make sure you are choosing a good laboratory, look that it conforms to ISO 17025. There is no other way to ensure that you will get high quality results. You should also be sure that a full DNA profile is provided for all 21 loci analyzed, and that you are given the statistical probability of paternity. It is not enough just to report Yes or No.

4. Can I have a Paternity Test Done Without a Sample From the Mother?

A paternity test is designed to identify the father, and this can be done without a sample from the mother. However, in some cases, particularly where gene mutation has occurred, better accuracy can be achieved if a sample from the mother is available. This can often be done at no extra charge, although in the UK you will require the consent of at least one recognized parent, so make sure that you have that authority if you are not including the mother.

5. What Samples can be used for the DNA Testing?

Any body tissue or fluid that contains DNA such as blood, semen, hair and saliva on, for example, tissues or cigarette butts can be used for DNA testing. The preferred source is the saliva and cells from the inner check obtained from buccal swabs, but if the suspected parent is unwilling to provide a sample, other sources of DNA can be used. Click here for more information on DNA tests.