We describe here a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction method for the detection of malaria parasites. Ten in vitro-cultured isolates of Plasmodium falciparum and 16 specimens from patients infected with P. falciparum were used to examine the specificity and sensitivity of the test. The sensitivity of the test was 0.3 parasites per microliter of blood. Specificity was determined by matching the sequences of the specimens' DNA to published sequences of 18S ribosomal RNA genes in the species-specific region. The test proved to be very sensitive and specific for the detection of P. falciparum infection.