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close this bookGuidelines for the Treatment of Malaria (WHO; 2006; 266 pages) View the PDF document
View the documentGlossary
View the documentAbbreviations
open this folder and view contents1. Introduction
View the document2. The clinical disease
open this folder and view contents3. Treatment objectives
close this folder4. Diagnosis of malaria
View the document4.1 Clinical diagnosis
View the document4.2 Parasitological diagnosis
View the document4.3 Where malaria transmission is low to moderate and/or unstable
View the document4.4 In stable high-transmission settings
View the document4.5 Malaria parasite species identification
View the document4.6 In epidemics and complex emergencies
open this folder and view contents5. Resistance to antimalarial medicines9
open this folder and view contents6. Antimalarial treatment policy
open this folder and view contents7. Treatment of uncomplicated P. Falciparum malaria10
open this folder and view contents8. Treatment of severe falciparum malaria14
open this folder and view contents9. Treatment of malaria caused by P. vivax, P. ovale or P. malariae19
View the document10. Mixed malaria infections
open this folder and view contents11. Complex emergencies and epidemics
open this folder and view contentsAnnexes
 

4. Diagnosis of malaria

Prompt and accurate diagnosis of malaria is part of effective disease management and will, if implemented effectively, help to reduce unnecessary use of antimalarials.5 High sensitivity of malaria diagnosis is important in all settings, in particular for the most vulnerable population groups, such as young children, in which the disease can be rapidly fatal. High specificity can reduce unnecessary treatment with antimalarials and improve differential diagnosis of febrile illness.

5 Further information on the diagnosis of malaria is provided in Annex 5.


The diagnosis of malaria is based on clinical criteria (clinical diagnosis) supplemented by the detection of parasites in the blood (parasitological or confirmatory diagnosis). Clinical diagnosis alone has very low specificity and in many areas parasitological diagnosis is not currently available. The decision to provide antimalarial treatment in these settings must be based on the prior probability of the illness being malaria. One needs to weigh the risk of withholding antimalarial treatment from a patient with malaria against the risk associated with antimalarial treatment when given to a patient who does not have malaria.

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