Respiratory viruses (RVs) are ubiquitous pathogens that represent a major cause of community-acquired pneumonia and chronic pulmonary diseases exacerbations. However, their contribution to acute respiratory failure events requiring intensive care unit admission in the era of rapid multiplex molecular assay deserves further evaluation. This study investigated the burden of viral infections in non immunocompromised patients admitted to the intensive care unit for acute respiratory failure using a multiplex molecular assay. Patients were investigated for RVs using immunofluoresence testing and a commercial multiplex molecular assay, and for bacteria using conventional culture. Half the patients (34/70, 49%) had a documented RVs infection. No other pathogen was found in 24 (71%) patients. Viral infection was detected more frequently in patients with obstructive respiratory diseases (64% vs. 29%; P = 0.0075). Multiplex molecular assay should be considered as an usefull diagnostic tool in patients admitted to the intensive care unit with acute respiratory failure, especially those with acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.