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Early Paternity Test Has Potential to Help Rape Victims

A new paternity test can determine the father of an unborn child as early as 8 weeks into a pregnancy.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- Knowing the paternity of a child is a piece of information that many take for granted. But for some, it is a terrible burden of uncertainty. Thousands of rape victims become pregnant every year, and not knowing who the father of their child is a cause for serious concern for many of these women.

That's where Rav Dhallan, M.D.'s new technology comes in. Dr. Dhallan founded a Maryland-based company called Ravgen. They created an early paternity test that can determine the father of an unborn child as early as 8 weeks into a pregnancy.

Dr. Dhallan says, "The way this test works is, basically, we take a blood sample from a pregnant mother, which contains a mixture of both fetal and mother's DNA, small amount of fetal DNA, large amount of mother's DNA, and we literally sequence their fetal DNA, and compare it to the potential father. If it's a match, it'll be a perfect match."

For many women, this test will alleviate stress and uncertainty weeks before current technology can.

The mother of a rape victim understands the importance of the tool, because her daughter had the test done recently.

She has requested that her identity remain unknown, but she recalls the events that her daughter went through. "She came out of the building at one dark end of the campus and all she remembers is a hand being put over her face and the next thing she knew is, she was getting up and she knew she'd been raped," the mother says.

The young woman ended up pregnant, but wasn't sure whether the child was her boyfriend's or her assaulter's. The test revealed in one week that the child was not, in fact, her boyfriend's.

This past May, Dr. Dhallan reported in The New England Journal of Medicine that analyzing just 20 DNA markers gives a 99.9% reliability that the match is correct. He says the test is a safe, early and easily accessible option for women. It only requires a simple blood draw.

Dr. Dhallan says, "By having the correct information as to who the true father is, it empowers the women to calmly make informed decisions as to how to proceed in the pregnancy."