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The ICTV has communicated its decisions to the international community through a series of published Reports. Between 1971 and 2012, nine ICTV Reports were published. Publication usually followed the formal approval of taxonomic proposals at plenary meetings of the ICTV held during International Congresses of Virology. These reports provide milestones by which the progress in virus taxonomy can be tracked.
Reporting ICTV Proceedings at the International Congress of Virology held in:
Wildy, P., Classification and nomenclature of viruses. First report of the International Committee on Nomenclature of Viruses. Monog. Virol. 5 (1971) 1–81.
43 families and groups
Fenner, F. Classification and nomenclature of viruses. Second report of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. Intervirol. 7 (1976) 1–115.
Budapest, 1971 and Madrid, 1975
47 families and groups
Matthews, R.E F. Third report of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. Classification and nomenclature of viruses. Intervirol. 12 (1979) 129–296.
The Hague, 1978
50 families and groups
Matthews, R.E F. Classification and nomenclature of viruses. Fourth report of the international committee on taxonomy of viruses. Intervirol. 17 (1982) 1–199.
54 families and groups
Francki, R.I.B., Fauquet, C.M., Knudson, D.L. and Brown, F. (1991). Classification and nomenclature of viruses. Fifth report of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. Arch. Virol. Suppl., 2. Vienna, Springer-Verlag.
Sendai, 1984; Edmonton, 1987; Berlin, 1990
73 families and groups classifying 2,420 viruses
Murphy, F.A., Fauquet, C.M., Bishop, D.H.L., Ghabrial, S.A., Jarvis, A.W., Martelli, G.P., Mayo, M.A. and Summers, M.D. (1995). Virus Taxonomy. Sixth Report of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. Vienna, Springer-Verlag.
1 order, 50 families, 9 subfamilies, 164 genera and more than 3,600 virus species
van Regenmortel, M.H.V., C.M. Fauquet, D.H.L. Bishop, E.B. Carstens, M.K. Estes, S.M. Lemon, J. Maniloff, M.A. Mayo, D.J. McGeoch, C.R. Pringle, R.B. Wickner, Virus Taxonomy, Seventh Report of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. Academic Press, San Dieg. 2000.
3 orders, 63 families, 9 subfamilies, 240 genera, 1550 species*
Fauquet, C., M.A. Mayo, J. Maniloff, U. Desselberger, L.A. Ball, Virus Taxonomy: Eighth Report of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. In: C. Fauquet, M.A. Mayo, J. Maniloff, U. Desselberger, L.A. Ball, Virus Taxonomy: Eighth Report of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. Elsevier/Academic Press, Amsterdam 2005.
Sydney, 1999 and Paris, 2002
3 orders, 73 families, 11 subfamilies, 289 genera and 1898 species
King A.M.Q., Adams M.J., Carstens E.B. and Lefkowitz E.J. (2012) Virus taxonomy: classification and nomenclature of viruses: Ninth Report of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. San Diego: Elsevier.
San Francisco, 2005; Istanbul, 2008; Sapporo, 2011
6 orders, 87 families, 19 subfamilies, 349 genera and 2285 species
*With the introduction of the current species definition and the adoption of formal species demarcation criteria in the Seventh Report (van Regenmortel et al., 2000), many virus strains that had hitherto been listed as separate species were reorganized into new, more broadly defined species. This explains the reduction in the number of "species" between the Sixth and Seventh Reports.
The First Report was published in 1971 by the then International Committee on Nomenclature of Viruses (ICNV), which had been established in 1966 (Wildy, 1971). This report, covering the period 1966 to 1970, established five Subcommittees: Bacteriophage (now Prokaryote Virus), Invertebrate Virus, Plant Virus, Vertebrate Virus and Cryptograms. The Subcommittees were responsible for approving taxonomic proposals relevant to their groups of viruses and presenting these proposals for approval by the Executive Committee (EC), the ICNV, with the provision that “a sizable number of virologists working in the relevant field were to be consulted”. This report included the designations family, genus (group) and type species, thus establishing and setting the foundations for viral taxonomy.
By the Second Report (Fenner, 1976), the name change to ICTV had been approved (in 1973), and a formal structure of ICTV officers had been established, consisting of the President, Vice-President, two Secretaries, Chairs of the Subcommittees, Elected Members and Life Members. There was now a Fungal Virus Subcommittee (created from the disbanded Cryptograms Subcommittee) and a Coordination Subcommittee (disbanded 1995) charged with ensuring that the Study Groups included virologists with interests in particular virus groups in each class of host affected.
In the Third Report (Matthews, 1979), the viruses were listed on the basis of the kind and strandedness of the nucleic acid making up the viral genome, and the presence or absence of an envelope. It was noted that although the ICTV had approved families and genera, there was no such approved “taxon equivalent to species, lying between genus and strain or variant”. The problem of defining species for viruses and naming these species was presented, and an extensive discussion of the various points of view as presented by representatives of different groups of viruses was outlined for the first time. It was suggested that it might take 10–20 years to provide these taxa, and an appeal was made to Study Groups to put forward species proposals for consideration by the ICTV. This was also the first ICTV Report to include virus diagrams, grouped according to the major hosts (animal, bacteria or plant). There was also a list of some unclassified viruses and virus-like agents, including the agents of scrapie, Kuru and Creutzfeldt–Jakob diseases, viroids, and satellite viruses and satellite RNAs in plants.
The same general arrangement was followed in the Fourth (Matthews, 1982) and Fifth (Francki et al., 1991) Reports. By the time of the Sixth Report (Murphy et al., 1995), the ICTV had finally accepted the controversial category of virus species based on a proposal made in 1990 (van Regenmortel, 1990). A virus species was defined as “a polythetic class of viruses that constitutes a replicating lineage and occupies a particular ecological niche”. There was also a clear description of the usage of formal taxonomic nomenclature and an attempt to explain its appropriate usage and how it differs from informal vernacular usage. More than 15 years later, this issue continues to elicit controversy.
In the Seventh Report (van Regenmortel et al., 2000), there was an extensive discussion of the species concept in virus taxonomy, and an appeal to the virology community to establish demarcation criteria whichcould be used to discriminate between different virus species within a genus. Some, but not all, genus descriptions in the Seventh Report included criteria by which species could be differentiated.
The Eighth Report (Fauquet et al., 2005) continued this process and provided an epic compilation of virus taxonomy illustrated with 436 electron micrographs, diagrams of virus particles, diagrams of genome organization and phylogenetic trees in a book of 1259 pages. As this approached the limit for publication in a single volume, it was becoming obvious that a different vehicle for transmission of virus taxonomy would soon be required.
Nevertheless, the Ninth Report was also published as a book of 1327 pages listing 2284 virus and viroid species distributed amongst 349 genera, 19 subfamilies, 87 families and 6 orders. There was also a chapter of unassigned viruses that provided information on several viruses that had not yet been classified but which were probably representatives of new genera or families. The final chapters described the satellites (and other virus-dependent nucleic acids) and prions (which include the agents of spongiform encephalopathies of humans), which are not formally classified by ICTV but were simply listed for historical reasons.
The current ICTV Online (10th) Report on Virus Taxonomy is published as a freely available, online resource. Over a three-year cycle, ICTV Study Groups will update the information in the chapters of the 9th Report as well as produce chapters for newly created viral taxa. These chapters will include direct links to the latest taxonomic database as well as to external sequence and taxonomic databases. In addition, Journal of General Virology will publish ICTV Virus Taxonomy Profiles – a new series of concise review-type articles that will summarize individual chapters from the Online (10th) Report. Written by ICTV Study Groups, these reviews will provide overviews of the classification, structure and properties of individual virus orders, families and, in some cases, genera. These summaries will be linked to the full Online Report chapters on the ICTV website and will be indexed in PubMed. Together, the summaries and online chapters are will provide researchers with up-to-date and authoritative taxonomic and descriptive information on virus taxa.
Support for preparation of the Online Report and Report Summaries has been provided by: