Lentiviruses are associated not only with immunodeficiency but also with malignancies. The mechanisms involved in tumorigenesis are still not fully understood. Cats infected with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) in the wild represent one model in which the role of viral load in the pathogenesis can be studied, since tumors, especially lymphomas, are quite often observed in cats infected with FIV. To be able to compare the viral load data among cats infected with different FIV isolates, the method used to obtain the viral load has to be unaffected by isolate-specific differences. This is especially true for the real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a new method for viral load determination, since nucleotide sequence mismatches have been used for allelic discrimination with this method. To investigate the influence of these mismatches on PCR efficiency, we have used an FIV-specific real-time PCR and determined the influence of nucleotide sequence variation in several characterized FIV isolates as well as unknown isolates from naturally infected cats. We could demonstrate that minor mismatches, such as point mutations in the primer or the probe region, decrease overall PCR efficiency but do not abolish the quantification, in contrast to major mismatches of three or four nucleotides, which lead to complete inhibition of the real-time PCR detection. Based on these results, it will be possible to design real-time PCR systems allowing the quantification of a broad range of isolates, which is a prerequisite for the investigation of the impact of viral load in tumorigenesis.