DNA test reveals incest but raises dilemmas

THE power of cutting-edge DNA technology, which may reveal children have been conceived through incest, can produce legal and ethical dilemmas for clinicians, experts warn.

DNA microarray analysis is used to identify genetic disorders in children with intellectual and developmental disabilities by looking for small deletions and duplications in the DNA using single nucleotide polymorphisms.

But the test can also reveal that up to one-quarter of the DNA on multiple chromosomes is not heterozygous, indicating the individual may have been conceived by first-degree relatives.

Although these revelations help identify the underlying cause of disabilities in the child, they also create a legal and ethical dilemma and may require reporting to child protection services or police, researchers said.

The authors suggest institutions draft practice guidelines on consent and reporting issues.

Lancet 2011; 377: 555-556