Diagnostic testing


Early and accurate diagnosis of malaria is essential for both rapid and effective disease management and malaria surveillance. High-quality malaria diagnosis is important in all settings as misdiagnosis can result in significant morbidity and mortality. WHO recommends prompt malaria diagnosis either by microscopy or malaria rapid diagnostic test (RDT) in all patients with suspected malaria before treatment is administered. Diagnostic testing improves the overall management of patients with febrile illnesses, and may also help to reduce the emergence and spread of drug resistance by reserving antimalarials for those who actually have the disease.

Overview of diagnostic testing

Malaria diagnostic testing improves the quality of care for all patients with febrile illnesses. It is the first step in the WHO-recommended T3: Test. Treat. Track approach to malaria treatment.


Microscopy remains the mainstay of malaria diagnosis in most large health clinics and hospitals but the quality of microscopy-based diagnosis is frequently inadequate.

Rapid diagnostic tests

Malaria rapid diagnostic tests have the potential to significantly improve management of malaria infections, especially in remote areas with limited access to good quality microscopy services.

Nucleic acid amplification-based diagnostics

Nucleic acid amplification tests can detect low density malaria infections. WHO recommends that their use be considered only for epidemiological research and surveys mapping submicroscopic infections.

Guidance on the evaluation, procurement, use and evaluation of malaria RDTs

This site provides information and guidance to malaria control programmes and health services, test kit manufacturers as well as organizations and individuals considering the use of RDTs.

Key documents

World Malaria Report 2017

This report contains the latest available data on malaria policies, interventions and trends in all endemic countries.

Contact us

Global Malaria Programme
World Health Organization
20 Avenue Appia
1211 Geneva 27
Tel: +41 22 791 2533
Fax: +41 22 791 4824