Can you get DNA from urine? How DNA testing works

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Can you get DNA from urine? How DNA testing works


DNA tests are no longer just something used as a plot point in a soap opera or that help Maury announce who is not the father – they have become quite popular, and extremely useful for the everyday person who is interested in knowing more about themselves and about their heritage.

By Editorial Team | 8th May 2019
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A DNA test is a test one can have done by sending in a DNA sample (we’ll talk about this more in a second) to be analyzed. The results come back telling you all sorts of interesting facts about yourself, your family, and your lineage. This is the primary reason why people get them – to identify ethnicities, heritage, and where they come from, essentially. It can be a fascinating discovery and it helps you learn more about who you are and where your family originally lived.

The other reason can be for people who are adopted to track down their biological families. DNA tests are an excellent way to discover family relations in surprising places, so it’s worth a shot.

How do DNA companies get samples?

Okay, but how does a DNA company get your sample? Suppose you’re using HomeDNA, LivingDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, AncestryDNA or 23andMe in order to analyze your DNA – you would need to send in a saliva swab, which basically entails spitting into a vial, sealing it, and sending it wherever it needs to go.

Blood also makes an acceptable DNA sample, and the way to collect it and send it over will depend on the company. If you are interested in doing a DNA test and you plan on sending a blood sample, contact the company for further instruction on collection, storage, and delivery.

Extracted DNA is also a good option accepted by laboratories, but it’s also one of those situations where you really need to ask the laboratory itself what is their preferred collection, storage, and delivery method.

Can urine be used as a DNA sample? Does it contain DNA?

While most bodily fluids can be used to extract DNA, if absolutely necessary, urine is a bit of a special case. Does urine hold DNA? Well, urine doesn’t contain DNA in itself. Based on that, one would think it cannot be used as a DNA sample – and it’s true, if we’re talking about sending it off to a company to be tested.

However, it is possible for urine to have certain cells that do contain DNA, that have been picked up from other places in the body, including the bladder, urethra, or ureters. So, if you were asking yourself “Can you get DNA from urine?”, then yes, urine DNA extraction is actually possible.

Healthcare And Medicine. Medical urine test, close-up
Urine DNA extraction is possible (Picture: iStock by Getty)
Why isn’t urine a good DNA sample?

The most obvious answer to why urine isn’t a good DNA sample is the simple fact that it does not actually contain any. The fact that it may contain cells that can be analyzed does not mean that it makes a good sample. It would be too difficult and the chances of getting a good result are slim.

As mentioned before, in certain cases, such as if the police needed a DNA sample, urine may be used as an option, if nothing stronger or more conclusive is available, but it is not by any means a first pick when it comes to samples.

How long does DNA last in urine?

If DNA is contained in urine, there’s a question of whether or not it’s going to be usable after a while – how long does urine hold DNA? Well, like most samples, you’ll have the best result with fresh urine, because that is going to give you the most accurate identification and results. The more time that goes by, the more inconclusive the results will be.

However, even with this significant and rapid deterioration rate, it turns out that there are still methods to salvage and be able to identify DNA in urine, even after a long period of time – as long as it’s frozen. A study has been able to demonstrate that frozen urine is successful at preserving traces of DNA in urine even a whopping 16 years later. Yes, it is collected and stored in a very specific way, but it is possible. That doesn’t mean that someone will be able to identify DNA in a urine drug test with frozen urine, though.

Female and Male Scientists Working on their Computers In Big Modern Laboratory. Various Shelves with Beakers, Chemicals and Different Technical Equipment is Visible.
While urine DNA testing can work, it isn’t the most accurate method (Picture: iStock by Getty)
Can you identify someone from urine?

Since urine is so unreliable when it comes to DNA collection, the question is – can you identify a person by urine? Well, not really, or at least not in any reliable way. So, assuming the police had to identify the perpetrator of a crime, urine by itself would not be enough.

However, a urine sample can be a good indicator for other helpful aspects of the person’s identity, not limited to gender, pregnancy, some diseases, etc. But as a sole provider of identity – the answer to the question of “can urine be traced back to the owner?” would have to be no.


DNA tests are really big right now – everyone is getting them to find out what secret potential heritage they may be hiding. There are a lot of different companies that do these tests now, and there are different ways that you can collect and send over your DNA sample. The simplest method is to just do a regular saliva swab (so you just spit in a vial), and that is the option most companies go for.

However, there are also other options to explore, including blood samples and extracted DNA, but collection methods are more complicated and storage is more difficult, so these are less popular than the regular old saliva sample.

Urine is an interesting one, because it seems like it would provide a perfect sample, but in reality, it doesn’t. Urine actually does not contain DNA, so it’s difficult to extract DNA or identify a person just by the cells that may happen to be contained within the urine.

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Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team is constantly watching for new and exciting services to report on. They aim to bring balanced, honest reviews to the site to give you the best comparisons and ensure you have the knowledge to choose the product right for you. Read more.
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