Nomenclature of viruses and taxonomic groups

The naming of individual viruses has been a rather haphazard business, with somewhat different approaches taken for viruses of different host types. Bacterial viruses were simply allotted codes, such as T1, T2 and 9X174. Viruses of humans and other vertebrates were commonly named after the diseases that they cause, e.g. measles virus, smallpox virus, foot and mouth disease virus, though some were named after the city, town or river where the disease was first reported, e.g. Newcastle disease virus, Norwalk virus, Ebola virus. Some of these original names have been adopted as the formal names of the viruses.

Some of the place names where viruses were first found have become incorporated into the names of virus families and genera (Table 10.2).

Table 10.2 Names of virus families and genera derived from place names

Place name

Family/genus name

Bunyamwera

Family Bunyaviridae

(Uganda)

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