We conducted a field study of a rapid test (Brugia Rapid) for detection of Brugia malayi infection to validate its sensitivity and specificity under operational conditions. Seven districts in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia, which are endemic for brugian filariasis, were used to determine the test sensitivity. Determination of specificity was performed in another state in Malaysia (Bachok, Kelantan) which is non-endemic for filariasis but endemic for soil-transmitted helminths. In Sarawak both the rapid test and thick blood smear preparation were performed in the field. The rapid test was interpreted on site, whereas blood smears were taken to the district health centres for staining and microscopic examination. Sensitivity of Brugia Rapid dipstick as compared with microscopy of thick blood smears was 87% (20/23; 95% CI: 66.4-97.2) whereas the specificity was 100% (512/512). The lower sensitivity of the test in the field than in laboratory evaluations (> or =95%), was probably due to the small number of microfilaraemic individuals, in addition to difficulties in performing the test in remote villages by field personnel. The overall prevalence of brugian filariasis as determined by the dipstick is 9.4% (95% CI: 8.2-0.5) while that determined by microscopy is 0.90% (95% CI: 0.5-1.3) thus the dipstick detected about 10 times more cases than microscopy. Equal percentages of adults and children were found to be positive by the dipstick whereas microscopy showed that the number of infected children was seven times less than infected adults. The rapid dipstick test was useful as a diagnostic tool for mapping and certification phases of the lymphatic filariasis elimination programme in B. malayi-endemic areas.