Paternity Test: Is it reliable?

Justin Bieber took a DNA test last week in New Jersey. He wants to refute the claims of a San Diego woman who filed a paternity suit against Bieber. The suit has since been withdrawn, but Bieber’s legal team intends to sue the accuser, Mariah Yeater, in order to discourage future baseless claims.

Yeater is 20. She had claimed that she had sex backstage with the 17-year-old last year and that he was the father of her baby, born in July. She was demanding child support. Bieber has denied the allegation.

Yeater may face charge of statutory rape since the singer was only 16 years old at the time of the alleged sexual encounter.

What is paternity test?

I went to Wikipedia to look for an answer. A paternity test establishes genetic proof as to whether a man is the biological father of an individual. A maternity test establishes whether a woman is the biological mother of an individual. Currently, genetic testing is the most reliable standard. It is the most advanced and accurate technology to determine parentage.

In a DNA parentage test, the result (called the probability of parentage) is zero per cent if the alleged parent is not biologically related to the child. The probability of parentage is typically greater than 99.9 per cent when the alleged parent is biologically related to the child, says the Wiki article.

Almost all individuals have a single and distinct set of genes. Rarely, individuals, known as “chimeras”, have at least two different sets of genes. There have been several cases of DNA profiling that falsely “proved” that a mother was unrelated to her children.

A person’s DNA is created from DNA (genetic material) of both parents in roughly equal numbers. A person’s DNA is a unique combination of genetic material in a new cell. This genetic material is known as the nuclear genome of the individual, because it is found in the nucleus.

Comparing the DNA sequence of an individual to that of another individual can show whether one of them was derived from the other. The mitochondria in the cells also have their own genetic material termed the mitochondrial genome. Mitochondrial DNA comes only from the mother.

Proving a relationship based on comparison of the mitochondrial genome is much easier than that based on the nuclear genome. However, testing the mitochondrial genome can prove only if two individuals are related through maternal descent. This is of limited value. It could not be used to test for paternity.

Nuclear DNA can accurately identify the father and the mother, and is the most common material used in parentage testing.

Several laboratories across Canada provide paternity testing. There are many ways to collect specimens for the test. For the test to be legally binding, one has to follow strict guidelines to prevent fraud. The sample is sealed in tamper-evident packaging. The least invasive and most common form of paternity testing uses the buccal (lining of the mouth) swab. This consists of a special swab, similar to a cotton-tipped swab. The swab is rubbed against the inside of the cheek to collect loose cells to be used for testing. One can also use a blood sample.

To ensure the identities of the parties involved, participants must produce a government issued ID. They will also be photographed. DNA can also be collected from the baby before birth. Amniocentesis can be performed between the 14th and 20th weeks of pregnancy.
A chorionic villus sample is obtained by inserting a thin needle into the vagina to collect tissue.

The cost for paternity testing varies widely, depending on which type of test is chosen. The cost of a buccal swab test collected at a facility is around $500, plus the charge for collection. For pre-natal testing, there may be an additional fee.

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