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Genetic testing unveils surprising cases of incest

by nickj on February 11, 2011

Doctors testing for genetic abnormalities in children are uncovering shocking cases of incest, according to a report published in The Lancet.

The report, authored by Dr. Arthur Beaudet at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, notes that a normal child receives half of his or her genetic information from each parent. When overlapping identical genes are present in much higher than normal quantities, the explanation can only be incest.

In some of the children involved in the Baylor study, about 25 percent of genetic information that should have been different were identical, suggesting first-degree relations in the parents of the offspring, according to ABC News.

Children born from such relationships are also 50 percent more likely to have disabilities, reported the source.

"We've known for years of cases of incest, where children born as a result face higher risks of disabilities," said Dr. Beaudet, the chair of Baylor's molecular and human genetics department. "The concern mainly stems from the possibility of children being sexually abused in the home, most often girls between 12 and 16 years of age."

According to Reuters, doctors are obligated by law to report suspected cases of incest involving minors, which constitutes child abuse.

The genetic findings by Dr. Beaudet involve single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) or "snips." These variations occur in just one nucleotide of a gene, pointing out genetic mutations, insertions or deletions. Beaudet's team uncovered about 10 examples of SNP markers in children with potentially incestuous parents, reported USA Today.

According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), genetic testing can help determine predisposition to diseases in both adults, children and embryos. The choice to undergo genetic testing is voluntary and should be discussed with a doctor or genetic counselor, although venues exist for direct-to-consumer genetic testing through companies available on the Internet.

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