Abbott TestPack RSV, a 20-minute enzyme immunoassay, is available for the rapid diagnosis of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections. We have compared TestPack with a "gold standard" method of virus isolation in traditional tube cultures and shell vials to determine the sensitivity and specificity of this rapid method. Respiratory specimens were collected prospectively from 402 children and assayed by the rapid antigen detection method and isolation in culture. Virus was isolated by inculation of specimen in a total of eight tubes and 2-3 shell vials. Isolation of RSV was confirmed by characteristic cytopathic effect and immunofluorescence using monoclonal antibodies to RSV. Of the 402 specimens tested, there were only 18 discrepant results (seven TestPack-positive, culture-negative, and 11 TestPack-negative, culture-positive specimens). The sensitivity of TestPack RSV versus culture was 93.6% (162 of 173) and the specificity was 97.0% (222 of 229). Using a very rigorous culture system, we have obtained high values for the sensitivity and specificity of TestPack RSV. This assay is an excellent method for the rapid diagnosis of RSV infections in young children.