DNA testing lab can now settle paternity issues using samples from a toothbrush

Rachel Davenport

A Warrington laboratory that carries out DNA tests for TV’s Jeremy Kyle show can now settle paternity disputes using samples from a toothbrush.

AlphaBiolabs has introduced the technique following studies by its in-house geneticists which showed that toothbrushes can provide a good source of DNA.

The method has been adopted at labs in the US and Canada, but the firm says this is the first time it has become available at a UK lab.

Toothbrush DNA testing is the latest innovation at AlphaBiolabs. The company recently achieved a UK first by introducing non-invasive pre-natal paternity testing, and in 2018 added medical assessments to its range of services amid growing demand for workplace drug and alcohol testing.

Each toothbrush submitted for analysis is examined for up to 35 DNA markers.

AlphaBiolabs’ commercial director, Rachel Davenport, said this makes it one of the most accurate DNA tests on the market.

Results are available in up to five days.

The usual method of DNA collection in paternity and other relationship disputes is from a sample taken by rubbing a swab on the inside of the donor’s cheek.

The DNA is extracted from the buccal cells collected in the sample when the swabs are returned to the lab for testing.

Rachel said: “Our extensive tests have demonstrated that the method of brushing and the type of toothpaste used has no effect on the DNA extracted from a toothbrush of any kind.

“Once the toothbrush has been returned to our lab for testing, the first step is to extract the DNA from the sample using one of the latest techniques.”

She added: “An advantage of toothbrush testing is that it can be used even when an individual has died.

“The DNA collected from their used toothbrush could be used to prove a biological relationship in the case of unresolved issues.

“Alternatively, a DNA profile could be a lasting memento of a loved one.

“Another advantage is that it could prevent awkward questions from children in the case of paternity disputes, as they need not be aware that a test is being undertaken.

“For example, in the case of a paternity dispute, using a swab on an older child could lead to awkward questions. Choosing the option of their regular toothbrush, instead, allows for discreet sampling.”

Consent must be provided for all toothbrush samples that are sent in to be analysed.

Next of kin, or another qualifying relative, can sign consent for an individual who has died. A parent or guardian must provide consent for a child under 16 years of age.

Rachel said: “We pride ourselves on being pioneers and this is a further demonstration of our commitment to remain at the cutting edge of developments in this industry.”