Each maternal blood sample was paired with blood from the stated biological father and then randomly grouped with one of 29 samples from unrelated men. Processing the three samples in each group, researchers correctly determined paternity for all 30 by comparing the genetic profile of fetal DNA in maternal blood with those of the two "paternal" samples, one genuine and one not.
Traditional invasive tests can't be done until between 10 and 15 weeks of pregnancy, but 80 percent of abortions occur before 10 weeks' gestation, Dhallan explained.
Dhallan said a test like this might prevent some women from aborting before finding out whether their baby was conceived through rape or consensual sex with their partners.
"A quarter of women tell me straight up that my answer will impact whether they keep the pregnancy," said Dhallan, adding that he and his team have since performed the test on more than 200 women. "By the time I did four cases, we had saved one baby. To me, every case is about life and death."
Dr. Jill Rabin, chief of ambulatory care, obstetrics and gynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York, praised the test as "really exciting" because of its noninvasive nature.
"Unfortunately, we do have a certain percentage of pregnancies that are complicated by alleged sexual assault," Rabin said. "Those would be the first patients who would want to know [paternity] as early as possible. But we do have people every week . . . who request paternity testing for different reasons. A lot has to do with child support."
U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the paternity blood test is not required, Dhallan said. Although he has not had it licensed for widespread use, he said he will make the test available on a limited basis through patients' physicians.
Dhallan said the cost of the procedure is comparable to the current cost of amniocentesis -- about $1,600 -- but that he hopes to price the test lower as
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