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Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays targeting the small-subunit rRNA were developed and evaluated, allowing for the simultaneous diagnosis of Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax DNA in human blood samples. The PCR methods and quantitative buffy coat (QBC) were compared in 402 patients. The heminested PCR method showed a sensitivity of 97.4%, which was superior to the sensitivity of the QBC method (91.7%, P < 0.05), to simple PCR (84.6%, P < 0.001), and to PCR with digoxigenin labeling (PCR-DIG) (88.5%, P < 0.001). The PCR-DIG and QBC analyses were more sensitive than simple PCR (P < 0.003 and P < 0.05, respectively). There was no significant difference between the sensitivities of the QBC assay and the PCR-DIG assay. The specificity for the 3 PCR-based methods was 100%, superior to the specificity calculated for the QBC assay (88.95%, P < 0.009). The frequency of a positive result in groups from endemic areas but without detectable parasitemia increased, in order, from simple PCR, QBC test, PCR-DIG, to heminested PCR. An association between a positive PCR result and a history of malaria was also found. Taken together, these data suggest that this technology could be further developed to screen people with oligoparasitemia and to monitor malaria treatment.