How long does a DNA test take?
These days, you can get all sorts of DNA tests online, from paternity tests to ancestry tests to genetics-based nutrition and fitness tests. Extracting information from your DNA isn’t easy, and a paternity or sibling test is very different to an ancestry or health test, both in the results you get and the way the tests are performed.
Let’s take a look at how long you can expect each type of test to take.
Ancestry DNA tests
More and more people are taking ancestry tests every year, and they are often surprised by how long it takes to get the results. If you know anything about genetic testing, then this surprise is itself surprising, since the turnaround time of most ancestry testing companies is actually very short, considering that they are scouring each person’s genome for genetic variations!
Here are the estimated wait times for your ancestry DNA results once your sample reaches the lab:
The standard waiting time is probably around 6-8 weeks, though it can differ for a few reasons.
Firstly, different companies look at a different number of SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) or variants in your genome to determine ancestry. Secondly, the wait time may vary depending on the company’s contract with their lab, and how large each batch of samples they process is. And lastly, you may have an extended wait time if you take your test when the lab is very busy, for instance around Christmas, Black Friday, or Mother’s and Father’s Days.
(You can compare various ancestry testing services here.)
DNA health tests, including fitness and nutrition
Genetic health testing – whether for fitness testing, drug response, carrier status, etc. – is conducted in more-or-less the same way as ancestry testing. Your DNA sample is analysed to look at specific points in your genome, though the number and locations vary depending on the type of test you take. A dedicated screening test for Alzheimer’s or breast cancer may look at only one or two specific genes, or a handful of locations in those genes. On the other hand, a genetic nutrition test may look at many more locations spread across your genome.
Here are a few estimated wait times for your DNA health results once your sample reaches the lab:
Again, wait times can vary for a number of reasons. Since there are so many types of DNA health tests, the number of genetic variants they look for also varies dramatically. It is best to look through the company’s FAQs or their “How it Works” page to find out how long you can expect to wait.
Some companies will allow you to upload your DNA file from a previous test you took (e.g. 23andMe or AncestryDNA). This is usually the cheaper option, as it saves the company the cost of processing your DNA themselves. This also means that you get rid of the waiting time: if you upload your DNA data, you will usually receive your results on the same day.
(You can compare various health testing services here.)
Paternity and familial DNA tests
Paternity tests, maternity tests, and other familial relationship tests generally take far less time than either ancestry or health tests. This is because the sort of testing DNA samples undergo is entirely different, and far more straightforward.
Familial DNA tests – whether they’re checking your uncle is your uncle or your sister is your sister – look at Short Tandem Repeats (STRs). These are the places in your genome where your DNA pattern repeats itself in stretches, which are passed down from parents to their children.
Here are some estimated turnaround times for paternity and familial testing companies once your sample reaches the lab:
The turnaround time for paternity and other familial tests is generally up to five days. If you want your results as soon as possible, you will want to read the instructions about the time your sample should reach the lab. Some labs even offer same day results – though this will cost you.
(You can compare various paternity testing services here.)
Whole Genome Sequencing
The first whole genome sequencing was completed in 2003, and cost around $2.7 billion. Now, you can get your whole genome sequenced for around one to three thousand pounds, depending on the lab you use and the sequencing depth you opt for.
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) looks at your entire genome, and records the whole sequence. The lab may also provide a report to help you interpret the information contained in your DNA.
Here are the turnaround times for a couple of DNA sequencing labs once they receive your sample:
(You can compare various DNA sequencing services here.)
Dog DNA tests
You’ve probably heard by now that you can get a DNA test for your dog for breed mix and health screening. If you hadn’t heard, you have now. Like human ancestry and health tests, these tests identify variations in your dog’s genome. These are compared to dogs of various breed admixtures to identify their breed mix, project a family tree, and identify health concerns.
Here are the turnaround times for a couple of dog DNA companies once your dog’s sample reaches the lab:
(You can compare various pet testing services here.)
Other DNA tests
For other DNA tests – like tests used to create genetic art, for instance – you will want to check the company’s website, often the FAQs, to find out how long you can expect the results to take. Different sorts of tests analyse your DNA in different ways and to varying degrees of depth, and so your wait time can vary a lot depending on the test you take!