Virology Division News
Names of viruses and virus species – an editorial note
Scottish Crop Research Institute, Dundee, U.K.
The following two papers [1, 4] have been submitted recently in advance of the Internation-
al Virology Congress (ICV) that is to be held in Paris in July of this year. The authors base
their proposals on papers that have appeared in the last two years concerning virus names
[2, 3, 5, 7–9]. Both authors suggest that ICTV should make substantial changes to the
existing procedures laid out in the International Code of Virus Classification and Nomen-
clature [6, 10] for the naming of virus species. The papers are published here to inform
discussions that look set to take place at the ICV. ICTV operates on behalf of all virologists
and so it is important that virologists make their views known to ICTV. There will be a
Taxonomy Workshop at the ICV and in this, in informal discussions, or at the ICTV Plenary
Session, there should be opportunities for the ICTV Executive Committee to be made aware
of virologists’ feelings. Opinions can also be posted on the public page of the ICTV web site
(http://www.danforthcenter.org/iltab/ICTVnet or http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ICTV/).
Important background points about ICTV operations are
• ICTV is responsible for developing a universal taxonomy that is applicable to all
• ICTV is responsible for the nomenclature and taxonomy of viruses. It does this by
recognising taxa (mainly species, genera and families) and assigning names to these
taxa. Currently it does not, unless asked, arbitrate on the names of viruses.
Principles of Nomenclature as laid out in the International Code [4, 8] include
2.1 The essential principles of virus nomenclature are:
(i) to aim for stability.
(ii) to avoid or reject the use of names which might cause error or confusion.
(iii) to avoid the unnecessary creation of names.
2.2 Nomenclature of viruses and sub-viral agents is independent of other biological
nomenclature. Virus and virus taxon nomenclature are recognised to have the status of
exceptions in the proposed International Code of Bionomenclature (BioCode).
ICTV would welcome the opinions of any interested virologists on these issues.