Members of the Rhabdoviridae Study Group (as listed below) wish to submit a response to the recommendations outlined in the Archives of Virology article “Binomial nomenclature for virus species: a consultation” and the associated taxonomic proposal 2018.001G.Ud.binomial_species.
Whilst we do have concerns about the logistics and practical consequences of changing the current approach to assigning species names, we understand and accept the arguments in favour of establishing a standardized binomial nomenclature. We also recognize the advantages of adopting a format comprising two elements with the genus name followed by a specific epithet. However, we are strongly opposed to mandatory Latinization of the specific epithet and instead favour freeform.
We do not consider the arguments presented in favour of Latinization to be convincing:
We consider the disadvantages of Latinization listed in the article far outweigh the advantages:
We consider the use of an alphanumeric species epithet to be potentially viable and offer some simplicity and utility in assigning very large numbers of new viruses. However, the disadvantages outlined in the article, with respect to confusion and loss continuity during revisions of taxonomy and when alphanumeric systems are in use for genotypes/serotypes, are quite compelling. We therefore do not support mandatory adoption of the alphanumeric form.
We consider the advantages of a freeform species epithet to be entirely compelling, particularly with respect to simple and easily recognisable translation from many existing species names. We also consider the flexibility offered by freeform would not preclude the adoption, on a case-by-case basis, of either Latinized or alphanumeric forms if desired.
We consider the potential disadvantages of freeform outlined in the article to be minor or manageable. Alphanumeric elements could be used if ultimately needed to accommodate large numbers of viruses and issues associated with uncomfortable, strange or unpronounceable names could easily be accommodated by study groups.
In summary, the following members of the Rhabdoviridae Study Group support the introduction of a binomial nomenclature for virus species comprising a generic epithet (genus name) followed by a specific epithet. However, we do not support the mandatory use of a Latinized form (as proposed in 2018.001G.Ud.binomial_species). We recommend the use of freeform for the specific epithet.
Members of the ICTV Rhabdoviridae Study Group
Kim R Blasdell
Ralf G Dietzgen
Anthony R Fooks
David M Stone
Robert B Tesh
Peter J Walker (Chair)
Anna E. Whitfield
One other member of the Study Group has indicated support for Latinization and another member has not responded to communication on the issue.