Paternity testing using abortion material in incest and rape cases

After incest or criminal sexual assault, pregnancies may be terminated by suction abortion. An aborted 6-8 week product of conception consists of small amounts of non-identifiable foetal organs as well as maternal blood and other tissues. In such cases, microscopic detection of embryonic organs or chorionic villi is not generally successful and samples will contain a mixture of foetal and maternal DNA. By typing the simple amelogenin dimorphism, the appearance of a ChrY signal can clarify the sex. For male foetuses, further ChrY testing can easily help to assess the paternity. In incest cases in which a father is charged with abusing his daughter, however, ChrX testing of the abortus cannot demonstrate paternity since all foetal alleles would necessarily coincide with alleles of the daughter. In such cases, ChrX testing of mixed abortion material can only be used for the purpose of exclusion, not inclusion. The highest certainty may be provided by a typing strategy using AS and ChrX markers simultaneously.

A quite different situation occurs when incest has to be investigated and clean foetal material can be obtained by chorion biopsy. In the case of a female foetus, ChrX testing would prove the fathering by a father-daughter incest when all foetal alleles coincide with alleles of the pregnant woman. Recently, we have reported a case of prenatal exclusion without involving the putative father of an incestuous father-daughter parenthood (Schmidtke et al., 2004).

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