Abstract A sensitive and specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based on a highly repeated deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequence (188 bp; SspI repeat) was tested for the detection of Wuchereria bancrofti DNA in blood and urine samples collected during the day from individuals in Coque, Recife, Brazil, an endemic area for W. bancrofti. All microfilaraemic individuals were also positive by PCR, irrespective of the samples used. The PCR system was capable of detecting W. bancrofti DNA in amicrofilaraemic individuals: c. 93% were positive by PCR when day blood samples were used and 59·7% when urine samples collected at 07:00 were used. Thus, nocturnally periodic W. bancrofti infection can be detected in blood samples collected during the day, which is convenient for large-scale screening. In addition, non-invasive urine collection provided suitable samples for PCR, which is clearly advantageous for preliminary mass diagnosis.