There is a critical need for a rapid and sensitive means of detecting viruses. Recent reports from our laboratory have shown that surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) can meet these needs. In this study, SERS was used to obtain the Raman spectra of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) strains A/Long, B1, and A2. SERS-active substrates composed of silver nanorods were fabricated using an oblique angle vapor deposition method. The SERS spectra obtained for each virus were shown to posses a high degree of reproducibility. Based on their intrinsic SERS spectra, the four virus strains were readily detected and classified using the multivariate statistical methods principal component analysis (PCA) and hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA). The chemometric results show that PCA is able to separate the three virus strains unambiguously, whereas the HCA method was able to readily distinguish an A2 strain-related G gene mutant virus (ΔG) from the A2 strain. The results described here demonstrate that SERS, in combination with multivariate statistical methods, can be utilized as a highly sensitive and rapid viral identification and classification method. © 2008 Springer-Verlag.