A screening assay for real-time LightCycler (Roche Applied Science, Mannheim, Germany) PCR identification of smallpox virus DNA was developed and compiled in a kit system under good manufacturing practice conditions with standardized reagents. In search of a sequence region unique to smallpox virus, the nucleotide sequence of the 14-kDa fusion protein gene of each of 14 variola virus isolates of the Russian World Health Organization smallpox virus repository was determined and compared to published sequences. PCR primers were designed to detect all Eurasian-African species of the genus ORTHOPOXVIRUS: A single nucleotide mismatch resulting in a unique amino acid substitution in smallpox virus was used to design a hybridization probe pair with a specific sensor probe that allows reliable differentiation of smallpox virus from other orthopoxviruses by melting-curve analysis. The applicability was demonstrated by successful amplification of 120 strains belonging to the orthopoxvirus species variola, vaccinia, camelpox, mousepox, cowpox, and monkeypox virus. The melting temperatures (T(m)s) determined for 46 strains of variola virus (T(m)s, 55.9 to 57.8 degrees C) differed significantly (P = 0.005) from those obtained for 11 strains of vaccinia virus (T(m)s, 61.7 to 62.7 degrees C), 15 strains of monkeypox virus (T(m)s, 61.9 to 62.2 degrees C), 40 strains of cowpox virus (T(m)s, 61.3 to 63.7 degrees C), 8 strains of mousepox virus (T(m), 61.9 degrees C), and 8 strains of camelpox virus (T(m)s, 64.0 to 65.0 degrees C). As most of the smallpox virus samples were derived from infected cell cultures and tissues, smallpox virus DNA could be detected in a background of human DNA. By applying probit regression analysis, the analytical sensitivity was determined to be 4 copies of smallpox virus target DNA per sample. The DNAs of several human herpesviruses as well as poxviruses other than orthopoxviruses were not detected by this method. The assay proved to be a reliable technique for the detection of orthopoxviruses, with the advantage that it can simultaneously identify variola virus.