Nust opens DNA testing clinic

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HARARE – The National University of Science and Technology (Nust) has set up a DNA testing facility offering quick and easy tests to determine paternity and other biological connections.

Nust’s Applied Genetic Testing Centre (AGTC) is offering DNA testing services starting at $100.

A full paternity test — alleged father, mother and child — costs $300, motherless paternity $200, all other relationship testing $100. Forensic testing for tooth brush, blood, hair, fresh blood, hair, semen and human remains is going for $300.

And the tests have a two weeks turnaround time.

DNA paternity testing is the use of DNA profiling (known as genetic fingerprinting) to determine whether two individuals are biologically parent and child.

Experts say there has been a steady increase in demand for such tests in Zimbabwe, where over 70 percent of women who claim maintenance from alleged fathers were paternity cheats.

Most men have been left to only find out the real paternity of their alleged children after being dragged to the courts for maintenance.

Director of the AGTC Zephaniah Dhlamini, said they had to come up with innovative ways of cutting costs to keep the tests affordable.

It used to cost $500 to send samples for DNA testing in neighbouring South Africa.

This becomes the third facility offering these tests in Zimbabwe.

Apart from the National Blood Services of Zimbabwe which offers the tests, there is also the African Institute of Biomedical Science Technology.

“Our services are cheaper because AGTC is being incubated at the Nust Technopark as a business start-up.

Thus, our overheads are low. Furthermore, we have come up with innovative cost-cutting measures while maintaining quality.

“Moreover, the costs of DNA tests are coming down globally,” Dhlamini said.

“The Nust Council approved it’s funding and specialised equipment was imported in August 2014.

“The training of staff and validation of testing procedures commenced soon after the acquisition of the specialised equipment.”

The AGTC lab and scientists manning it are fully compliant and registered with the Medical Laboratory and Clinical Scientists’ Council of Zimbabwe, he said.

“The lab is also registered with the National Biotechnology Authority.

“The testing procedures we use are internationally validated.

“So the DNA test you get at AGTC is the same as those you will get from any advanced DNA facility in the developed countries,” he added.