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Open Access Highly Accessed Commentary

International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses and the 3,142 unassigned species

CM Fauquet1* and D Fargette2

Author Affiliations

1 International Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural Biotechnology, Danforth Plant Science Center, 975 N. Warson Rd., St. Louis, MO 63132 USA

2 Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement, BP 64501, 34394 Montpellier cedex 5, France

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Virology Journal 2005, 2:64  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-2-64

Published: 16 August 2005

Abstract

In 2005, ICTV (International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses), the official body of the Virology Division of the International Union of Microbiological Societies responsible for naming and classifying viruses, will publish its latest report, the state of the art in virus nomenclature and taxonomy. The book lists more than 6,000 viruses classified in 1,950 species and in more than 391 different higher taxa. However, GenBank contains a staggering additional 3,142 "species" unaccounted for by the ICTV report. This paper reviews the reasons for such a situation and suggests what might be done in the near future to remedy this problem, particularly in light of the potential for a ten-fold increase in virus sequencing in the coming years that would generate many unclassified viruses. A number of changes could be made both at ICTV and GenBank to better handle virus taxonomy and classification in the future.