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Sh800 and bam, you have DNA results at your home? It's not that cheap, not that easy

DNA test results in Kenya could take anywhere between three to ten days to be processed. [File, Standard]

Former Nominated Senator Millicent Omanga caused a stir on social media on Monday, January 9, when she tweeted that the Kenyan market has allowed DNA paternity testing kits that can be used at home.

What most Kenyans might not know, is that the over-the-counter kits are only used to collect DNA samples, and the results cannot be processed at home, but at licensed laboratories.

The waiting period for paternity results in Kenya could be anywhere between three to ten working days.

Amazon, one of the world’s leading online stores, sells the DNA kits for between $99 (Sh12,250) and $129 (Sh16,000).

There are online retailers that sell the kits for $56 (Sh6,900), and others $34 (Sh4,200).

One of the testing kits by Alpha Biolabs costs Sh12,389. Since it’s being shipped from the United Kingdom by desertcart.co.ke, the standard waiting period for its delivery is between nine and 15 days.

The full test kit allows you to collect samples for examination and thereafter ship them back to Alpha Biolabs in the UK for analysis. The results would then be sent to you via email after a few days.

The DNA samples are taken from the mother, one child and the child’s alleged father.

The samples used in DNA paternity tests are saliva, blood, oral/buccal swabs, plucked hairs or fingernails.

Once the samples are collected, they are labelled and packaged in the kits, which are taken to registered laboratories for analysis.

In Kenya, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the Bioinformatics Institute of Kenya (KIBS) offer DNA test and analysis services.

DNA paternity tests are conducted in one of the following two circumstances: court-induced, or self-induced circumstances.

When the courts order DNA paternity tests on children, the processed results are usually treated very confidentially.

When a person initiates the DNA paternity test by himself, then consent by participants (the child and the mother) is key.

Under the self-initiated DNA testing, the results are not admissible in court, says KEMRI.

“A home paternity test kit is an excellent choice if you want an answer for personal knowledge and peace of mind only. Because test participants collect and submit their own DNA, results are not court-admissible. The [testing] prices start from Ksh20,000,” says KEMRI on its official website.

What are the circumstances when one can collect his or her own samples and that of the child for analysis?

KEMRI says: “If the test is not for legal purposes and you are unable to physically come for test or you just prefer the convenience of doing the test at the comfort of your home, then the home DNA test kit is the ideal choice. The kit contains instructions and materials needed for sampling. You do not need to visit the lab. Simply collect sample and send them off to our lab.”

KEMRI adds: “Once testing is complete, we email the results to you or send by courier at an additional fee, you can also opt to come for a hard copy of the results.”

The Bioinformatics Institute of Kenya (KIBS), on its part, says that it would cost Sh10,000 per person for their DNA samples to be analysed.

“It is therefore Sh20,000 in total for the alleged father and one child,” KIBS says on its website.

“Our standard 24-marker DNA test involves comparison of 24 different genetic markers in the DNA of the child, father, and mother. The DNA test is based on the fact that 50 per cent of a child’s DNA is inherited from the father and 50 per cent from the mother,” says KIBS.

How KIBS do it

“A paternity index (PI) score of 1 is assigned to each marker that matches the alleged father’s and the child’s DNA profile while a PI score of zero is assigned to every non-match. The paternity index is the likelihood ratio that indicates whether the evidence fits better with the hypothesis that the man is the father or with the hypothesis that someone else is the father.

“The combined paternity index (CPI) is then computed by multiplying the paternity indices (PIs) then converted to a probability of paternity value. The larger the CPI, the more strongly the hypothesis that the alleged father is the true biological father is supported by the genetic evidence. The alleged father is ruled out as the biological father if he does not share a number in common at three or more genetic systems.”

A more advanced 44-marker DNA test, which is conducted in complicated cases, would cost you Sh17,500 per person. 

The bottom-line is, DNA paternity test is a complex scientific process that can’t be done easily and cheaply in the confines of one’s home.

Dr Ahmed Kalebi, the founder of Lancet Laboratories, said on Twitter that persons claiming Sh800 is enough for one to get DNA paternity test results are “misinforming Kenyans”.

“Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of misinformation or disinformation going round perpetuated by social media comments, even in mainstream media and by political leaders suggesting that the DNA test only costs Sh800. That is not true! The test costs more than Sh16,000,” Dr Khalebi said on Tuesday, January 10.

“The home DNA test kit, said to be available in pharmacy or supermarket shelves at a cost of Sh750 to Sh800 is just the sample collection kit (swab). For the actual DNA test, the sample collected has to be mailed or shipped to the lab where lab testing fee is a minimum of Sh15,000.”