Lysis of infected cells by CD8(+) T cells is an important mechanism for the control of virus infections, but remains difficult to quantify in vivo. Here, we study the elimination kinetics of viral antigen-positive lymphocytes by antiviral CD8(+) T cells using flow cytometry and mathematical analysis. In mice acutely infected with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, more than 99.99 % of target cells were eliminated each day, corresponding to a half-life of 1.4 h. Even in mice exposed to virus 300 days previously, and with no ex vivo killing activity, 84 % of the target cells were eliminated per day. Unexpectedly, the elimination kinetics of antigen-positive lymphocytes was not significantly impaired in mice deficient in either perforin-, CD95 ligand- or TNF-mediated cytotoxicity. For viruses with a particular tropism for lymphocytes, such as Epstein-Barr virus or HIV, our results illustrate how effectively CD8(+) T cell-mediated elimination of target cells can potentially contribute to virus control and immunosuppression.