Real-time RT-PCR assays targeting sequences in the measles virus (MV) nucleoprotein (N), fusion (F), and hemagglutinin (H) genes were developed for the detection of MV RNA in clinical specimens. Four primer and probe sets each for the N, F, and H genes were evaluated and reaction conditions optimized. Using dilution series of synthetic RNAs, the limits of detection were determined to be approximately 10 copies for each target RNA/reaction. The relationship between C(t) values and RNA concentration was linear within a range of 10-10(6) RNA copies/reaction, and intra- and inter-assay variability was low. The N gene-specific real-time assay detected MV RNA in 100% of clinical samples from confirmed measles cases compared to 41% by standard RT-PCR. The MV H and F gene-specific real-time assays detected MV RNA in 93% and 82% of these specimens, respectively. Real-time assays could detect RNA from strains representing each active genotype of MV and were also highly specific, as no false positives were identified when samples known to contain other respiratory viruses were tested. Real-time RT-PCR assays will be available to support routine measles laboratory surveillance, to facilitate research projects on pathogenesis that require sensitive and quantitative detection of MV RNA, and to aid in the investigation of serious disease sequelae resulting from natural measles infection or vaccination with measles-containing vaccines.