With the recent explosion of DIY projects available on the internet, you might question whether a process as significant as a paternity test or an ancestry test should be trusted to be completed by yourself at home. There are seemingly a never-ending supply of products purchasable: laboratories around the world offer testing services to governments, hospitals and corporations, who then market DNA kits to potential customers for an amount between $50 and $150 – this does not incorporate the charge of having the dna specimen analyzed and the results returned. The important consideration becomes, payment aside, can these at-home kits be trusted? And, if so, under which conditions should they be used?
A DNA Kit is merely as good as the laboratory doing the analysis, and testing (or profiling) know-how has evolved quite a bit since the 1980’s. The most common analysis carried out in North America, termed the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, is used by the FBI and is able to give results that are above 99% accurate for cases such as paternity testing. The method works by comparing distinguishing regions of one’s genetic profile (called loci) to the same regions in another’s genome, and then using statistical analysis to establish whether or not the two samples share inheritance patterns. Most up-to-date laboratories now have the technical knowledge to accurately execute this test. It is absolutely possible for at-home testing kits, when employed prudently and without contamination, to give an equally high success rate.
The diverse types of testing purchasable, such as maternity, sibling, avuncular (aunts, grandparents), and ancestral tests all offer distinct statistical accuracy rates. As an example, verifying whether two people are siblings, who might share at most one biological father, will have a lower success ratio than verifying whether two individuals are identical twins.
Ancestry DNA testing compares one’s genome to populations within a database. Due to the calculations involved, the outcomes are entirely based on probabilities. With a choice between maternal and paternal lineage testing, individuals can determine their “genetic roots”: essentially statistical matches showing how strongly their DNA correlates with tribal populations in distinct geographic areas around the world. Ancestry testing kits are not accessible in patient-doctor contexts, are not covered by insurance, and are seldom used in legal proceedings. For those reasons, they are probably most recommended for Do-It-Yourself types who are interested in their lineage and might want to take part in a community of similar individuals.
Judging whether an at-home DNA kit fulfills your requirements depends on your preference for anonymity and whether or not the outcome will be employed for legal purposes. Some companies have recently begun providing additional documentation and services to offer legally allowable test results. Additional crucial considerations are the reputation of the company and the laboratories they employ. Certification by the AABB (American Association of Blood Banks), corroboration with the Better Business Bureau, and highly accessible customer service options are also advocated. Once you are comfortable with the appropriate company, you can be confident that the outcome of an at-home DNA testing kit should be just as dependable as if you had the test carried out at a professional environment.