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Malaria parasites can be detected by identification of specific nucleic acid sequences in their DNA. Methods based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) have been developed for identification of DNA of malaria parasite. Species diagnosis is also possible. PCR-based methods can detect very low levels of parasites in blood (< 5 parasites/μl of blood) with very high sensitivity and specificity.
Molecular methods can be useful in the diagnosis of malaria, in following response to treatment, in epidemiological surveys, and for screening of blood donors. They can also be used as a standard to judge other methods of malaria diagnosis. However, these methods cannot be routinely applied because of the high cost, need for special equipments and materials, and lengthy procedure (24 hours). Presently they can be used as a research tool in malaria control programs, and to carry out quality control checks on microscopic diagnosis.