Virology Division News
Virology Division News
Arch Virol 144/6 (1999)
Abbreviations for plant virus names – 1999
M. C. Fauquet
and M. A. Mayo
ILTAB (IRD-DPSC), TSRI-Cal 7, La Jolla, California, U.S.A.
Scottish Crop Research Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee, U.K.
Whilst it is obvious that a bureaucratic fondness for abbreviations has exposed their use to
sharp, and deserved, ridicule, they nonetheless can satisfy a genuine need. In virology, it is
a commonplace that abbreviations for virus names make the literature both easier to read
and more succinct to present.
The International Committee for Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) is responsible for
controlling, approving and recording the names of virus taxa and has a formal International
Code that guides this activity. However, there is an important distinction between formal
names for taxa and abbreviations, for which ICTV does not have a constitutional responsi-
bility. ICTV does publish abbreviations in its Reports, and is often asked for guidance
concerning the “correct” abbreviation to use. Nonetheless, these are advisory rather than
Traditionally, abbreviations have been regarded as strictly local to a particular paper,
chapter or thesis. Thus at one time “AMV” was used equally for Arabis mosaic virus,
Alfalfa mosaic virus and Avian myeloblastosis virus, but not in the same piece of writing.
Equally, “CMV” is a commonly used abbreviation for Cucumber mosaic virus, but is also
used for Cytomegalovirus. Currently, there are about 4000 virus names in the ICTV lists
and it is impractical to define unique abbreviations for them all. But within a discipline it
should be possible. And if abbreviations are to be used, it is obviously a great convenience
if an agreed standard abbreviation can be used for any particular virus in all published work.
For plant virology, a set of principles has been developed to guide in the creation of
new abbreviations and in attempts to standardize usage. These principles have been
published [1, 2], and those discussed here are based on them.
Plant virus names abbreviations: the principles
1. Abbreviations should be as simple as possible.
2. An abbreviation must not duplicate any other previously coined and still in current usage.
3. The word “virus” in a name is abbreviated as “V”.
4. The word “viroid” in a name is abbreviated “Vd”.