Virus classification

Virus classification is the process of naming viruses and placing them into a taxonomic system. Similar to the classification systems used for cellular organisms, virus classification is the subject of ongoing debate and proposals. This is mainly due to the pseudo-living nature of viruses, which is to say they are non-living particles with some chemical characteristics similar to those of life, or non-cellular life. As such, they do not fit neatly into the established biological classification system in place for cellular organisms.

Viruses are mainly classified by phenotypic characteristics, such as morphology, nucleic acid type, mode of replication, host organisms, and the type of disease they cause. Currently, two main schemes are used for the classification of viruses: the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) system and Baltimore classification system, which places viruses into one of seven groups. Accompanying this broad method of classification are specific naming conventions and further classification guidelines set out by the ICTV.

A catalogue of all the world's viruses has been proposed; some related preliminary efforts have been accomplished.[1]

Virus species definition

Species form the basis for any biological classification system. The ICTV had adopted the principle that a virus species is a polythetic class of viruses that constitutes a replicating lineage and occupies a particular ecological niche.[2] In July 2013, the ICTV definition of species changed to state: "A species is a monophyletic group of viruses whose properties can be distinguished from those of other species by multiple criteria."[3]