In this article we will discuss about the nomenclature of viruses.
It was realised by the virologists that binomial system of nomenclature proposed by Carolus Linnaeus and successfully used for both animals and plants cannot be used for viruses. Johnson (1927) was the first to attempt to naming the viruses.
According to him, the name of a virus consists of at least three parts: Common name of the host on which it was first discovered and described, the term ‘virus’ and an Arabic number indicating chronologically the order in which it was described on that host.
As per this system Tobacco Mosaic virus may be named a Tobacco virus 1. A decade later, Smith (1937) modified the Johnson’s system by replacing the common name of the host with the Latin generic name.
Thus, Tobacco virus 1 became Nicotiana virus 1. Holmes (1948) proposed new generic names to virus on the basis of symptoms induced while virus species was derived from the names of host plants. Accordingly, Tobacco mosaic virus was named as Marmor tabacci.
Hansen (1968) developed a complicated system of nomenclature in which name of the genus is constructed by putting together different syllable, each syllable being based on different property of the virus.
Thus, Tobacco Mosaic virus became Minochorda, wherein M means that virus is mechanically transmitted-in-signifies that specific vector is unknown, and —Chorda signifies that the virus particles are rod -shaped and stiff.
According to Thornberry (1968), Viruses of higher plants were named as Phytovirus, those of pteridophytes as Pteridovirus, viruses of Bryophytes as Bryovirus and those of Thallophytes as Thalloviruses.
Specific name suffixed to the generic names, contained the name of host plant and symptoms produced. Thus, Tobacco Mosaic Virus is named as Phytovirus nicomosaicum.
Gibbs (1969) opined that introduction of binomials to viruses would create more problems than solving and result in confusion. Earlier in 1953, the Sixth International Congress of Microbiology, at Rome took the decision that application of binomials to the viruses is undesirable and should be discouraged.
Therefore, the International Committee of Virus nomenclature at its meeting held in Rio de Janerio also concluded that the viruses be designated by non-lineal binomials and proposed a new system of nomenclature.
According to this system of nomenclature, the name of the virus consists of two parts: the first part represents the common name of virus while the second part contains coded information about the virus.