British researchers say approximately one in 25 fathers might unknowingly be raising another man’s child.

The researchers say the implications of their findings are huge in light of the increasing reliance of judicial and health systems on DNA profiling and genetic testing.

Lead author Mark Bellis of John Moores University in Liverpool and his colleagues based their findings on published scientific research and conference abstracts between 1950 and 2004.

Their research shows rates of paternal discrepancy range from less than 1 percent to as much as 30 percent.

However, the authors note the increasing use of genetic testing for diagnosis, treatment, and identification is likely to boost the rates of paternal discrepancy, making the need to understand the true prevalence even more pressing.

At present, they say there are few support services to help those affected and little guidance on disclosure of paternal discrepancy for those working in healthcare or the criminal justice systems.

In a society where services and life decisions are increasingly influenced by genetics, our approach to (paternal discrepancy) cannot be simply to ignore this difficult issue, the authors conclude.

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