This study used real-time PCR assays to screen small sample volumes for a comprehensive range of 35 respiratory pathogens. Initial thermocycling was limited to 20 cycles to avoid competition for reagents, followed by a secondary real-time multiplex PCR. Supplementary semi-nested human metapneumovirus and picornavirus PCR assays were required to complete the acute respiratory pathogen profile. Potential pathogens were detected in 85 (70%) of pernasal aspirates collected from 121 children with acute respiratory symptoms. Multiple pathogens were detected in 29 (24%) of those samples. The tandem multiplex real-time PCR was an efficient method for the rapid detection of multiple pathogens.