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Are Mouth Swabs Effective for Collecting DNA?

Aug 31, 2015 | DNA science, DNA test, Forensic DNA Testing, Paternity

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Swabs are very effective for collecting DNA


Yes! Mouth swabs are not only effective for collecting DNA, they are the standard for many applications, including paternity testing, forensic testing, and many kinds of DNA identification. The cells collected from the mouth, preferably cheek cells, slough off in great quantity, and can be stored very easily.
If you’re in your 40’s, you might remember when blood was the only way to collect and find DNA. If there was a crime scene, the detectives needed blood—and hopefully a lot of it—to get a DNA profile. In paternity testing, blood was collected from each party, even infants, in order to compare DNA profiles.
Today, that’s all changed. Technology has changed, from a system called “RFLP” to one called “PCR,” and with that change, much smaller amounts of DNA is needed for DNA testing. In the PCR process, DNA is duplicated millions of times, so a little DNA can turn into a lot of DNA! With this change, a few hundred cells from the inside of cheek can be plenty to establish a DNA profile.
Here are some examples of programs that have been established to collect DNA profiles that you may not know about:

  • Military personnel. Those that join the military will have their DNA collected right when they join. It can be used to identify bodies when necessary.
  • Prisoner Inmates. Some want ever person arrested to have their DNA collected, thinking most people that are arrested are repeat offenders, and more crimes can be solved using the federal database.p. Those that enter prison will have their DNA collected, often to compare their DNA to federal databases to link them to other crimes. The federal DNA database is called CODIS, or Combined DNA Index System.
  • Paternity Testing. States programs collect thousands of DNA samples every month for paternity testing for child support. DNA can now be collected very easily with cheek swabs, rather than blood samples.
    • The use of cheek swabs for DNA collection for has made it possible to even collect DNA at home, creating a new kind of paternity test, where people can find out who the father is without going through the state.

Mouth swabs that collect cheek cells are a very effective way to collect DNA. When dry, these swabs can be stored for decades, and the DNA can still be tested. With simple instructions, anyone can rub a swab on the inside of a cheek and collect enough DNA for a paternity test or any other DNA test. The swabs are not only effective, but they are THE chosen method by most state and federal agencies that collect DNA.

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