Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Information and Resources

Font Size

DNA Fingerprinting

Results

DNA fingerprinting is a test to identify and evaluate the genetic information—called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)—in a person's cells.

DNA samples can:

  • Determine who a person's parents are (establish paternity and maternity). Tissue samples from two people can also be compared to determine how likely they are to be blood relatives.
  • Determine whether a suspect was present at a crime scene, by comparing DNA from the scene to the DNA of the suspect.
  • Positively identify a body. Bone and hair samples can be used to identify a badly decomposed body.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Sample size. The possibility of having inaccurate test results increases if a very small sample of DNA is available for testing. The chance that the DNA will be mixed up with some other DNA is also higher with a smaller sample.
  • Having had a blood transfusion within the past 3 months.
  • Decay of the tissue sample.

What To Think About

  • Because DNA fingerprinting has been used to identify bodies, such as military personnel killed in action or crime victims, DNA databases (much like fingerprint databases) have been developed. DNA fingerprinting is more accurate than traditional fingerprints, dental records, blood type, or ID tags for this purpose.
  • Although home paternity test kits are available, they are not as accurate as DNA fingerprinting, and the results cannot be used in a court of law. If you are thinking about using of one of these kits, talk with your doctor.
  • Other tests that can help determine the likelihood of two people being related or that can detect inherited diseases include karyotyping and genetic testing. For more information, see the topics Karyotype Test and Genetic Test.

Other Works Consulted

  • Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerSiobhan M. Dolan, MD, MPH - Reproductive Genetics
Last RevisedNovember 29, 2012
1|2|3

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 29, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Hot Topics

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Can you catch one?
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Is yours working?
woman using breath spray
What's causing yours?
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
Eat for a healthy heart.
woman doing pushups
To help you get fit.
Colored x-ray of tooth decay
Know what to look for.
Woman sitting with child
Do you know the symptoms?
mosquito
Stings, bites, burns, and more.
Allentown, PA
Are you living in one?
Thyroid exam
See how much you know.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.