Bunyavirus taxonomy: Limitations and misconceptions associated with the current ictv criteria used for species demarcation

Bradley J. Blitvich, Barry J. Beaty, Carol D. Blair, Aaron C. Brault, Gerhard Dobler, Michael A. Drebot, Andrew D. Haddow, Laura D. Kramer, Angelle Desiree LaBeaud, Thomas P. Monath, Eric C. Mossel, Kenneth Plante, Ann M. Powers, Robert B. Tesh, Michael J. Turell, Nikos Vasilakis, Scott C. Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) has implemented numerous changes to the taxonomic classification of bunyaviruses over the years. Whereas most changes have been justified and necessary because of the need to accommodate newly discovered and unclassified viruses, other changes are a cause of concern, especially the decision to demote scores of formerly recognized species to essentially strains of newly designated species. This practice was first described in the seventh taxonomy report of the ICTV and has continued in all subsequent reports. In some instances, viruses that share less than75%nucleotide sequence identity across their genomes, produce vastly different clinical presentations, possess distinct vector and host associations, have different biosafety recommendations, and occur in nonoverlapping geographic regions are classified as strains of the same species. Complicating the matter is the fact that virus strains have been completely eliminated from ICTV reports; thus, critically important information on virus identities and their associated biological and epidemiological features cannot be readily related to the ICTV classification. Here, we summarize the current status of bunyavirus taxonomy and discuss the adverse consequences associated with the reclassification and resulting omission of numerous viruses of public health importance from ICTV reports. As members of the American Committee on Arthropod-borne Viruses, we encourage the ICTV Bunyavirus Study Group to reconsider their stance on bunyavirus taxonomy, to revise the criteria currently used for species demarcation, and to list additional strains of public and veterinary importance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-16
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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