SHE’S HER OWN TWIN (TWO SETS OF DNA)

Lydia Fairchild and her children (pictured above) are the subjects of a documentary called “The Twin Inside Me.”

Lydia Fairchild was pregnant with her third child, when she and the father of her children, Jamie Townsend, separated. Lydia applied for welfare support in 2002, she was requested to provide DNA evidence that Jamie was the father of her children.  While the results showed Jamie was certainly the father of the children, the DNA tests showed conclusively that she was not their mother.

This resulted in Lydia being taken to court for fraud for claiming benefits for other people's children or taking part in a surrogacy scam.  Hospital records of her prior births were disregarded.  Prosecutors called for her two children to be taken into care.

As the time approached for her to give birth to her third child, the judge ordered a witness be present at the birth. This witness was to ensure that blood samples were immediately taken from both the child and Lydia.  Two weeks later, DNA tests showed that she was not the mother of that child either despite having a witness present.

A breakthrough came when a lawyer for the prosecution found an article in the New England Journal Of Medicine about a similar case that had happened in Boston, and realized that Lydia's case might also be caused by chimerism.

Chimerism occurs when two fraternal twins embryos grow, but then one absorbs the other, incorporating the other's DNA into different tissues and organs of its body.

In 1998, 52-year old Boston teacher Karen Keegan was in need of a kidney transplant.  When her three adult sons were tested for suitability as donors, it was discovered that two of them did not match her DNA. Later testing showed that Karen was a chimera, a combination of two separate DNA strands, when a second set of DNA was found in other tissues.

Lydia's prosecutors suggested this possibility to her lawyers, who arranged further testing. As in Karen Keegan's case, DNA samples from extended members of the family were taken.  The DNA for Lydia's children matched their father and Lydia's mother. They also found that while the DNA in Lydia's skin and hair did not match her children, the DNA from a cervical smear test was different and did match.  Lydia was carrying two different sets of DNA, the defining characteristic of a chimera.  If a significant proportion of the population carry more than one set of DNA, this calls into question the credibility afforded to forensic DNA evidence and to paternity testing.

This condition is extremely rare, only 30 chimera’s exist.

*We tackle this subject (chemerism) in a short story authored by Myra Panache (on the website) when a fictional character (Dayna Silva) is informed she’s a chimera, this same character gets infected with HIV by her boyfriend. She’s recruited by the government as a HIV-assassin since her DNA is untraceable. Her assignment is to ‘intentionally infect’ enemies of the government. 

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Photo credit: ABC News

 

 

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