Virus Genus

Names given to genera end with the suffix -virus. There is continuing pressure to use increasingly detailed structural, physicochemical, or serological differences to create new genera in many families.3

Virus Species

Species is a highly specific classification given to a virus that has met many selective criteria. In 1991, the ICTV defined a species as "a polythetic class of viruses that constitutes a replicating lineage and occupies a particular niche."3 This definition allows for some plasticity in the properties required for species classification, allowing emphasis in some cases to be on genome properties, in others on structural, physicochemical, or serological properties. The term "quasi-species" refers to a population of closely related viral sequences. This is often used to describe RNA virus isolates where essentially every genome sequence is different due to the high error rate of RNA-dependent RNA replication.

The highly structured and formal classification system set up by the ICTV gives the virologist, clinician, technician, epidemiologist, and first-responder access to valuable information. Once a virus is identified and its classification is defined, information about the virus or similar better-studied viruses such as the kinetic characteristics of virus spread, tissue tropism, disease pathogenesis, associated clinical symptoms, treatment, and level of required biocontainment can be quickly realized. This system also allows for classification and characterization of a new unknown virus. For example, SARS was a previously unknown virus that was quickly analyzed and placed into the Coronaviridae family.

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