Who's your daddy? DNA tests go retail

GenomeWeb reports that Rite Aid drug stores on the West coast are now selling kits for doing paternity tests. The kits are made by Sorenson Genomics in Utah.

Sorenson Genomics calls it the "peace-mind-test." Really!

Each kit contains a swab for collecting cheek cells from the inside of your mouth and a container for mailing the sample to the lab.

As far as I can tell, you buy the kit for $29.99, take a sample, fill out the consent forms, and mail the sample to Sorenson along with the $119 lab fee.

Maybe I'm too imaginative, but I'm a little puzzled by some of the information that wasn't in the news brief or on the Sorenson Genomics web site.

  • The first thing that puzzles me is the implication that you can test for paternity with a single DNA sample. To do this test, you need samples from both the child and the father. Do both people have to buy the kit? Does the kit contain collecting tubes for two people or just one?
  • Next, the kit contains consent forms, but what if one of the parties is a child? If one of the parties is a child, who signs the form? One parent?  Both parents?
  • How would Sorenson Genomics really know if the proper people signed the consent form?
  •  Would the results from this test be legally binding?
  • Are there methods for ensuring the chain-of-custody? What would happen if samples got mixed up? How would you know?
  • What happens to the data after you've gotten your results? Does Sorenson keep it?
  • Who validates or regulates DNA testing labs like Sorenson? Anyone?

I guess with Sorenson Genomics, 23andme, and Navigenics, all testing the limits, we're not just the West coast anymore. Now we're the wild west of DNA testing.

More like this

The Reveres are crazy busy. So what do we do to keep this space from going dark? We put up posts like this one: Identigene is selling at-home DNA testing kits for paternity testing at drugstores across the country. The $30 kit includes swabs for the child, mother, and "alleged father," consent…
As I mentioned earlier, the current issue of Nature has a perspectives article by Donald Berry, a statistician at the MD Anderson Cancer Center that addresses problems with the current system for testing athletes. I more or less agree with the overall conclusion of the article - there needs to be…
(Cross-posted to Genomes Unzipped.) Today's US Congress Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing into the direct-to-consumer genetic testing industry was a vicious affair. Representatives from testing companies 23andMe, Navigenics and Pathway faced a barrage of questions about the accuracy and…
New Scientist has a fascinating piece in which reporters Peter Aldhous and Michael Reilly demonstrate - with a little cash, and more than a little effort - the possibility of obtaining large-scale genetic data from someone without their knowledge or permission. The reporters started with a glass…

Wow, great info (this and the personal genetics test)! While I usually support the right to information, it's questionable whether such data would actually be able to be interpreted usefully by laypeople or if it would set them up for greater exploitation by those who can.

just ask google:
second hit:

"The box contains three sets of cotton swabs to collect cheek samples from the child, the alleged father and the mother. (The mother is optional but helps strengthen the results, the company says.) The swabs are put into separate packets and mailed to Sorenson�s laboratory in Salt Lake City. Results are provided by mail, fax or on a password-protected Web site within five days of the laboratory receiving the samples."

"Sorenson said the test was for peace of mind and that the results would probably not stand up in court because questions could be raised about whose samples were submitted. The kit advises people wanting to test for legal purposes to call the company and set up a chain of custody for the samples, which would cost an additional $200."

Thanks hibob! I guess if I'd waited a little longer I would have had more of my answers.

Of course, the article still didn't say anything about who signs those consent forms, but well, ... still I guess someone gets "peace of mind" and all that.

Personally though, I can't see anything good coming from the results of this kind of test.

I know this is pushing for optimism, though maybe some lay-people do not understand how two brunettes could have a blond child. It has to go at a balance between how many illegitimate children there are vs how many suspected illegitimate children there are.

"Home" paternity tests are nothing new. Companies have offered legal chain-of-custody vs private home paternity testing for years. If you go with a reputable lab, results from both types of tests are equally accurate (as long as the participants are honest with their samples). The difference is in whether they're legally admissible or not.

As for consent forms, parents have guardianship over their children so would sign the forms for them just as in newborn screening. On a related note, Amy Harmon of the NYTimes suggested in her piece about 23andMe that she would consider sending in her daughter's DNA for analysis in the future.

For those of us who haven't encountered a situation where paternity is in question, these types of tests might not seem important. But thousands of people face paternity issues every day because of child custody battles, immigration, adoption, etc. Choosing a home paternity test to perform in the privacy of their own home is a logical first step.

Is your dad your dad? Would you like to know? Would your mother like you to make investigations? What if your mother has been keeping little secrets. It is not that uncommon. Check the stats. So if you make some investigations, that does not stand up in court, the results would have the benefit of doubt, enabling a multitude of outcomes.


Of course you're right that paternity testing has been around a long, long time. I remember one Seattle company who's main business was paternity testing for the state of Washington. Many US states used to require women to have their children tested before they could obtain food stamps or other kinds of financial aid.

Thanks for the reminder too about the connection between emigration status and DNA testing. I hadn't considered that application and of course you're right, in those cases people's lives depend on being able to prove their relatedness.

I don't think you're right about Amy Harmon, from the NYTimes, though. I can understand her wanting to know more about her ancestry but I sincerely doubt that she needs to analyze her daughter's DNA to identify the child's father.

Jake & Theodore: Perhaps these days trust is a luxury.

LOL I don't think I made myself clear about Amy Harmon. I was speaking in relation to giving consent for children's DNA to be analyzed.

whose "peace of mind"?

By Ian Findlay (not verified) on 28 Nov 2007 #permalink

Why spend the money? Maury Povich will fly the baby momma and daddy/s/s/s into New York for free, and let them jump around on stage like a monkey, shouting "I Tol' you so!! You da daddy", and "That b!tch a Ho! I ain't make no ho baby!" Then, after thirteen or so trips to the Big City, some lucky kids might actually have their paycheck donor figured out, and the mommies can rest at ease, knowing that they have more money for bad weaves, Eminem albums, and crack.

By the real cucko… (not verified) on 28 Nov 2007 #permalink

"I guess with Sorenson Genomics, 23andme, and Navigenics, all testing the limits, we're not just the West coast anymore. Now we're the wild west of DNA testing."

I think your wild west analogy is good. If you look at the wild west on a time line, it started out as the empty, barren west. Then got to wild and then eventually got to tame, ( depending on who you talk to, LOL!)
The people mentioned in this post are pioneers. Like the first step on the moon, etc. They are sort of feeling their way along in unknown, uncharted waters.
It all has to start somewhere so someone has to be willing to be the first one to stick their toe in the water, hoping it is not too cold or that there aren't any sharks around.
I believe this field is in the infant stage and we are all going to be very amazed where it has gotten to in just 10 or 20 years!
Dave Briggs :~)