Viruses are an important cause of acute respiratory tract infection (ARTI) in children. This study aimed to develop and evaluate a rapid molecular diagnostic test (duplex real-time PCR) for human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) and human metapneumovirus (hMPV), and to determine the frequency of these two viruses as causative agents of ARTI in Belgium. Nasopharyngeal aspirates were collected over two winter and spring seasons (November 2003 to May 2004 and November 2004 to May 2005) from children aged <5 years with ARTI (n = 778). The duplex real-time PCR showed a linear range of 10(4)-10(10) copies/mL for both hMPV and hRSV. Analysis of the stability of the hRSV and hMPV genomes revealed that nasopharyngeal aspirates could be stored at room temperature for up to 1 month without significant loss of detection. hRSV was detected by antigen testing and by real-time PCR; hMPV was detected by real-time PCR only. The hRSV antigen test was less sensitive than PCR, and failed to detect one-third of the hRSV infections. Overall, 54 (6.9%) and 306 (39.3%) of the 778 samples were positive for hMPV and hRSV, respectively. Both viruses infected young infants, but the mean age of infants infected by hRSV was lower than that of infants infected by hMPV (12 months vs. 17 months, respectively).