HIV-1 group O infections remains essentially restricted to central Africa, and particularly Cameroon, although isolated cases have been reported in Western countries. Genomic differences explain why commercial tests used to quantify HIV-1 group M plasma load are unsuitable for HIV-1 group O. This lack of a quantitative tool hinders the clinical management of HIV-O-infected patients. We have therefore developed a real-time PCR assay, based on LightCycler technology, to quantify HIV-1 group O RNA in plasma. The primers were selected in the LTR 3' region. Forty-eight plasma samples containing strains belonging to the different HIV-1 type O clades (O:A, O:B and O:C) were tested. RNA was quantifiable in 40 of these samples. RNA was always detected in samples from untreated patients, except for one patient infected by a highly divergent strain. The kinetics of plasma viral load were also examined in seven patients for whom clinical and immunologic follow-up data were available. HIV-1 group O plasma load was high in the absence of treatment and correlated negatively with the CD4 cell count. Serial samples obtained during treatment allowed us to compare viral load changes with immunologic outcome. Despite the high initial cost of acquiring the required cycling device, the per-sample cost of this real-time quantitative PCR assay for HIV-1 group O is low, making it suitable for use in endemic zones.