A new blood test that can identify malaria infections within 15 minutes won approval from U.S. health officials on Tuesday.
The Food and Drug Administration said the Binax Now test, made by a unit of Inverness Medical Innovations Inc., was faster and easier to use than older methods.
Standard laboratory tests require identifying malaria parasites in a blood sample under a microscope, the FDA said.
The new test provides results from a few drops of blood placed on a dipstick, and can differentiate between the most dangerous malaria parasite and less virulent forms, the FDA said. Results should be confirmed with standard microscopic evaluation.
The Binax Now test was 95 percent accurate compared with microscopic diagnosis, the FDA said.
Malaria was eliminated from the United States in the 1950s, but Americans may become infected from traveling to other countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,528 new malaria cases were reported in the United States in 2005. Seven patients died.
Deaths can be prevented if malaria is diagnosed and treated early.