A real time quantitative PCR assay based on TaqMan technology was developed for orf virus (ORFV) DNA quantification in clinical samples, infected cells and organotypic cultures. This method was based on the amplification of a 70 bp fragment from the ORFV B2L gene (orthologue of the Vaccinia virus Copenhagen F13L gene) that encodes the major envelope protein. Both intra- and inter-assay variability were well within +/-0.25 log(10) S.D. showing the high efficiency and reproducibility of the assay. The TaqMan PCR was subsequently used to determine the titre of several batches of the ORFV strain NZ-2, with it being possible to quantify virus solutions in the range of 1 x 10(1) to 1 x 10(6) TCID(50)/ml. A good correlation between the titre determined by the TaqMan PCR and by conventional endpoint dilution was found. The PCR assay is reproducible and can be used for a rapid quantification of ORFV in vitro and ex vivo, being readily achievable within 1h.