March 28th, 2008
12:25 PM ET

Take home paternity test

How times have changed. This morning I reported about DNA paternity tests.

That's right – you can go to the drugstore today and buy a genetic test that can determine who is the father of the child. In fact my producer Danielle bought two from the Rite Aid by her house – she did get a few funny looks.

According to the directions, you take a cotton swab and rub it inside the child's mouth. That will provide enough DNA for the test. The man who may or may not be the father has to do the same. After you collect the DNA and send it in, it takes three to five days for the test to come back, and you can even go to a confidential Web site and get the results...

The big question is of course, how accurate is the test? You really wouldn't want to be wrong about this. Well, according to an expert we interviewed, these tests rely on around 15 markers, and that makes it pretty accurate. If you are able to collect the child's, the potential dad's and the mom's DNA, the test is 99.9 percent accurate. With just the child's and the potential dad's DNA, it is closer to 99 percent accurate. Not bad. But the truth is, we don't know exactly how accurate these tests are because they aren't regulated by the FDA. The manufacturer says this is the same test forensic and legal agencies have been using for years.

The test costs around $20, but if you read the smaller print, you will see that there is also a $119 lab processing fee, so not cheap. And, as the included materials state, if there are multiple "alleged" fathers, the costs will be even higher... hmmm.

So, here we are in 2008. Over-the-counter genetic tests now are available – testing everything from paternity to your risk of developing diseases such as Alzheimer's. I actually took five different DNA test kits to compare their accuracy (watch Dr. Gupta's report on take home paternity tests and the DNA tests here). I'm still waiting for the results but I'll blog about it when they come in.

What do you think about over-the-counter genetic tests? Would you use one? Do you trust them?

– Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

Filed under: Dr. Sanjay Gupta
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. marc

    i have just recently been asked to take a paternity test no one was sleeping around but after a long term relationship and a break up and new partners my x found out she was 4 months pregnant with the time gap so small time of conception couldnt xclude me or the guy the at home swab test was taken and later came back negative but this baby looks spitting image of me and nothing like her mom or the other alleged strange i wonder if contamination happened i mean if my ex purposely put my dna and the babies together on a swab or something like that to try and falsify a positive would it come back negative ? were habving blood test done to know for sure

    March 29, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  2. Ratna, New York, NY

    Dear Dr. Sanjay Gupta,

    It is very useful! A friend of mine went through a painful divorce loosing child custody after learning that he is not the biological father. The DNA -test only was taking after his ex-wife stated that the child was conceived in an extra marital affair. During the marriage he thought that he was the biological father.

    THe only thing I am concerned about is that this over-the-counter method is non-conventional. Sometimes these test kits will not give accurate readings due to: product expiration, exposure to extreme temparature, or other sorts of damage. So, in case of legal matters, a more convential method of DNA testing should be used.

    I think that this a very important item to be added to a rape-kit.

    March 29, 2008 at 10:14 am |
  3. jes

    I hope the test works then maybe I will not be subjected to the fools I see acting like stooges on that Maury show. The people who appear on that show have no respect for themselves, their families or their race.I don't know who should be more ashamed Maury or his waste of skin guests.

    March 28, 2008 at 11:47 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    These tests are becoming a well used tool in genealogy research also. Some lines from a particular individual are well documented and paternity easy to define; others are not so well defined and while you think there may be a connection you have no proof. Genealogy groups have been very successful in getting a test from the undefined line (has to be a direct male descendant) and a test from the defined line. We generally test anywhere from 25 to 50 markers; the tests have substantiated some connections that were thought to be there and disproved others. Its been a remarkable help to give the researcher a firm direction to go in to complete their research.

    Its a great tool for this especially for places some ancestors lived where the records were burned in the courthouse during the Civil War or some other fire.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    March 28, 2008 at 8:20 pm |
  5. Praetorian, Fort Myers

    This is a bucket of worms waiting to spill out into the court rooms.

    Some health tests–shouldn't be available to the general publice–this one surely should not.

    Even if the tests are done–no court will make a decision on the findings without their own sactioned and independent tests.

    What a waste of money for people worried about spending money on court paternity testing. Because the courts will not accept these personally performed tests. The chain of custody regarding legal DNA testing must be adhered to.

    What a sham–and what ignorance to believe they'll help resolve legal paternity issues.

    March 28, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  6. Kuy

    It would be great if this company's product is accurate and reliable, and becomes accepted in legal matters. Anything to make life less expensive rocks my boat.

    At some point my family will likely be forced to prove paternity to remain tribal members. Money doesn't grow on trees, just in casinos.

    March 28, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  7. Margie Oklahoma

    A lot of the probable fathers will not let a cotton swab within a hundred feet of their mouths. Simply put: The like the "FUN AND THRILL'" but not the consequences of their actions.

    Too many young women trust the wrong guys and have a child before they are ready for a family.

    March 28, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
  8. Saera El Paso, TX

    ah, i heard about this last year. a local radio station tried it out on a family of listeners (the mom denied that the dad was the dad).

    not sure how i feel about this. it's too weird.

    March 28, 2008 at 4:24 pm |
  9. Jacqueline

    Hi Dr. Gupta,

    Long time no see nor hear from. Were have you been?

    As for technology today, I’d like to suggest a book entitled, “Visions,” by Dr. Michio Kaku. In his book, he discusses this type technology and much more fascinating and scarier things and how they affect our lives.

    On the matter of paternity testing, I’m with Sylvie and Melissa. As a 40 year old virgin, this may sound rather extreme to some, probably to most, but I know of a much better test than ANY. LOL!! Needless to say, I am so not with many of the “ways of the world.” And, yes, I am “perfectly” normal. LOL!

    As well, I do share the same concerns expressed by Cindy.

    What will they think of next? Trust me, “they” have already thought of it. “We” just wait for these things to surface. Take cloning for instance; cloning didn’t begin when the general public first got wind of it.

    JPH, NY

    March 28, 2008 at 3:20 pm |
  10. Susan

    Dr. Gupta:

    I does not say much for our sociaty, that we find a need for this. We as adults have to be role models to our young people.

    I too would be concerned about false positive/negatives in reference to how the samples would be handled. This should be left to professional labs and ordered and monitered by doc's.


    March 28, 2008 at 3:18 pm |
  11. michelle

    O h no now what am I gonna watch on maury .my favorite ones are paternity test. now a girl all she has to do is wait till he sleep and swab his mouth and never have to tell the truth that she cheated cuz she can find out if he the daddy or not

    March 28, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  12. Sabrina in Los Angeles


    If you are faithful with your partner, you shouldn't need this.

    If your partner is unfaithful and a person shows up on your door step and says "Hi, I'm your child." Then I would think it pertanant to use.

    It is very much like the movie GATACA, where they can test for everything and you can be excluded out of society due to genetics. I think it is dangerous to go that route. Or kind of like Hitler's idea of perfect, superior people....just wrong.

    I'm sure there is good with this, like knowing what you are genetically disposed to so you can adjust to it, but I think if they use it to exclude people for employment or social status reasons....that is dangerous.

    March 28, 2008 at 2:52 pm |
  13. Cleo

    This is gonna put The Maury Povich show out of business and off air...

    March 28, 2008 at 2:35 pm |
  14. carmela

    Good news, just in time before Clinton campaign accuses Obama of something illicit and he can prove they're lying again on the spot or something Hill can use on Bill ....LOL

    March 28, 2008 at 1:44 pm |
  15. Tammy

    No, I don't trust OTC genetic or diagnostic tests. I'd rather pay the professionals to do the testing through my MD. She and her staff know what they are doing, my samples are taken in a sterile environment in her office, they either test my blood there or send it off to a reputable lab (hey her license is up for grabs if they aren't), and then I get results in a few minutes or a few days (depending on the test). In home testing of people, there is no guarantee of medical or psychological follow-up of results (assuming the results are accurate in the first place). And there is no accurate reporting of results to track disease trends at the state and federal levels. From a personal standpoint, I pray my life never becomes such a train wreck that I would even have to question who my future child's father is and choose to rely on a home test to figure out something so huge. How pitiful of a cesspool has America become that home paternity tests even have a viable market?

    March 28, 2008 at 1:37 pm |
  16. Sylvie Grace

    I don't think I would buy an over the counter paternity test. It sounds like a very cheap way to make money. Also it seems as if the people who decided to market this, does not really care about the seriousness of paternity. Paternity tests are not like pregnancy tests. There are many laws on the books that pertain to child support and so forth, and men could be wrongly implicated on the basis of this test. I think that paternity testing should be left to professionals who have the knowledge to accurately read the DNA.

    I agree with Dr. Gutpa's assessment on our society. It is very sad that paternity has become such a non-issue, so much to the point we can just go to the drug store and see which one of a multiple number of sexual partners could be the father of the child. I think that we need to revisit issues of sexuality and responsibility, and teach our children appropriately about sex. It just seems so degrading.

    March 28, 2008 at 1:15 pm |
  17. Kiran

    Hey Sanjay,

    These tests are not regulated by the FDA, I wouldn't use one. But it would be really neat if the results turn out to be as accurate as they say they are.

    Hmmm...if this test really works, it might actually help solve some serious problems for a lot of women out there.

    Thanks for blogging!

    P.S. How come we don't see you on AC360 anymore?

    March 28, 2008 at 1:04 pm |
  18. Melissa

    What a sad statement of our society that over the counter paternity tests are available because too many men and women are laying down with multiple partners and creating unexpected children. I use to think the Maury show was fake because there couldn't possibly be this many women who could be testing so many men to find their baby's daddy. Maybe I was wrong.

    March 28, 2008 at 1:01 pm |
  19. Cindy

    I have heard about these tests a while back. I can't believe they have them so you can buy it over the counter now! What will they come up with next!? LOL My biggest concern would be how accurate are they really. I mean could the swab get contaminated somehow on the way to the lab or where ever you send it. And then come back as a negative reading but it really should be saying it is a match. It just seems like something could go wrong with the transfer of the samples to the labs. And really how good are the labs that it is being sent to?

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    March 28, 2008 at 12:33 pm |