New Prenatal Blood Tests Can Identify Paternity of an Eight Week Fetus

An interesting story in the New York Times today explores the ease with which noninvasive prenatal diagnostics can now determine paternity, even when the pregnancy is only eight or nine weeks old. Multiple companies are now offering such tests, which require only blood samples from the mother and from the potential father to determine paternity long before the pregnancy culminates.
Prenatal paternity testing certainly isn’t new, but previously it had to be done via amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, both of which require the removal of fluids (amniotic) or tissues (from the placenta) from the mother. That, of course, makes them both expensive and invasive, and could even result in complications or a miscarriage in rare cases. These tests are used to screen some unborn babies for chromosomal or other fetal problems, but rarely are used strictly to test for paternity.
A paper recently published in the not-to-be-scoffed-at New England Journal of Medicine describes a test developed by a company called Ravgen that requires only a blood sample, from which fragments of DNA from the fetus that get loose in the mother’s blood stream are extracted and analyzed to determine things like gender and even paternity (if the potential father has provided a sample for DNA comparison). Ravgen’s test isn’t the first–another diagnostics company, Natura, developed a similar test that has been on the market since last August. But the New England Journal of Medicine paper marks the first time such a prestigious member of the medical establishment has recognized the tests