searching for the proper name

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Here is a practical question for you. I sit on our university's biohazard committee. At a recent meeting, an application included "Herpes B" as a hazard. I suggested using the correct taxonomic name and provided the ICTVonline link. As you can see from the comments below, and my own experience, searching for ICTV approved nomenclature continues to be challenging, particularly when the common name is just that, very common. Do you have any suggestions on how to help people search for approved taxonomic names?


Begin forwarded message:

From: Shelagh Mirski <>
Date: 2008 January 09 14:12:39 EST (CA)
To: Eric B Carstens <>
Subject: Viral nomenclature

Hi Eric,

At the last Biohazard Committee meeting you spoke quite strongly about using ICTV nomenclature to avoid confusion in the applications. I looked up Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1, the most recent formal name that I have seen for Herpes B virus in the published literature. I found it (with a bit of difficulty, going through multiple layered windows). However when I search for B-virus, or Herpesvirus simiae both of which are listed as alternative names in the "Taxon Info" then "list of Species in the Genus". So while I agree in principal with using the proper name, I think it is going to be tough for people to use this database to find the correct name if they know the common name. For this virus we know the proper name is, but in other cases we may not. Perhaps there is a different way to search the database that I missed? Suggestions?


Shelagh Mirski, Ph.D.
Biosafety Officer,
Department of Environmental Health and Safety
Rideau Building Rm 319
207 Stuart St.
Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario
K7L 3N6

613-533-6000 ext. 77077 (Mirski office)
613-533-2999 (EHS Department office)
613-533-3078 (FAX) (email)

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  • Eric,

    Ideally, ICTVdb should provide a listing of alternative names and synonyms. Once the new system comes online (perhaps this summer) these types of searches should be much easier. (One caveat is that I am unsure how complete the list of synonyms is within the ICTVdb database.) While we could decide to provide synonyms for the names in the Master Species List available from, this would probably duplicate ICTVdb efforts and not be worth the time.

    And for anyone interested, Dr. Mirski did find that NCBI provides the ability to search for alternative names from their taxonomy search page: (set the option for token search)



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