Malaria can be diagnosed either by direct microscopic examination of blood smears, which is time consuming and requires expertise, or by immunological techniques, which are effective but do not distinguish between past and present infections. In this study, a simple procedure was developed for spotting lysed blood from infected patients directly onto nitrocellulose paper and identifying the malaria species on the basis of hybridization of parasite DNA with a species-specific probe. A genomic DNA library of Plasmodium falciparum was screened to detect clones containing DNA sequences that are highly repeated within the parasite genome. Several such clones were further analyzed to identify those that hybridize specifically with P. falciparum DNA but not with DNA from humans, P. vivax, or P. cynomolgi. This technique appears to be sensitive enough to detect 10 picograms of purified P. falciparum DNA (equivalent to 100 parasites) and in field studies is able to detect approximately 40 parasites per microliter of blood.

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