A teacher died of malaria after his treatment was delayed for 11/2 days because a hospital could not process his blood test quickly and then failed to forward the results, an inquest heard yesterday. Simon Davies was airlifted to hospital after a private doctor suspected he had contracted the disease. But hospital doctors did not begin treating the 34-year-old Briton for malaria until 36 hours later. Blood test results showing he had contracted a deadly form of the disease were delayed because hospital blood laboratories only operated during the daytime, the Coroner's Court was told. Davies, of Pui O, Lantau, died in Princess Margaret Hospital on February 16 from plasmodium falciparum, a virulent and fast spreading form of malaria. 'It can progress from benign to fatal within 48 hours,' malaria expert Dr John Simon told the inquest. 'The blood test is the only scientific proof of whether a man has malaria.' Davies, an English teacher at the Chinese University, suffered 'flu-like symptoms' two weeks after returning from a holiday in Burma. On February 11, he visited Queen Mary Hospital complaining of chills and weakness. He was sent home with Panadol. Two days later, his condition had worsened. Dr Kwok Ka-cheong, who ran a private clinic in Mui Wo, Lantau, suspected the teacher had malaria and recommended an airlift to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Davies gave a blood sample on arrival, but the hospital's laboratory opened only from 9 am to 5 pm so the test could not be conducted. He was transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital's infectious diseases unit the next morning, February 14. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital lab found the blood tested positive for malaria at 1 pm that day, but never informed Princess Margaret Hospital. Princess Margaret Hospital, meanwhile, carried out its own blood test the same day. It came back positive the following morning and doctors began treating Davies for malaria. But he lapsed into a coma that evening and died several hours later. Dr Yeung Pan of Princess Margaret Hospital told the inquest that if Queen Elizabeth Hospital had notified him of the positive result on the afternoon of February 14, he would have begun treatment immediately. Dr Ho Hiu-fai of Queen Elizabeth Hospital said it was not considered 'cost effective' to run the blood laboratory outside daytime hours. If the laboratory had been working, Davies' results would have been 'processed within 11/2 hours'. The Hospital Authority last month set up a 24-hour central laboratory at Queen Mary Hospital to conduct tests for suspected malaria cases. Davies, from Birmingham, had mentioned to each of the eight doctors who treated him he had been travelling in a high-risk malaria area 14 days before his illness. 'The first important question which has to be asked is 'Where they have been?' ' Dr Simon told the hearing. 'If they have been to malaria-infected areas the possibility of having the disease becomes more likely.' Coroner John Saunders will deliver his verdict on Wednesday.