How to Find a Virus Species Name
Prepared and narrated by Steve Powell, August, 2023
For a detailed description of the Taxonomy Browser, please see the How-to video “The ICTV Taxonomy Browser: What it is and how to use it.”
To access the MSL, click on the “Master Species List” link, located on the homepage.
Let us begin by making the distinction between a virus and a virus species. A “virus” is a physical entity that may infect and cause disease; whereas a “virus species” is a taxonomic classification, which is an artificial construct that allows us to show how viruses are related. Therefore, it follows that a “virus name” is the name of the virus, that is, the physical entity; whereas a “virus species name” is the name of the category into which the virus has been classified.
As an example, suppose that we want to find the species name of the measles virus in the MSL.
We can try doing a search for “measles”, using the Excel “Find” utility.
However, the search does not find it.
This is because “measles” is the virus name, and the MSL does not contain virus names, but rather virus species names.
Next, if we go to the Taxonomy Browser and do a search for “measles” across all ICTV MSL releases, we get some results, since “measles” was once part of the species name. However, in general, searching for the virus name will produce no results.
One of the reasons why we could find it in the Taxonomy Browser search, but could not find it in the MSL search, is because the taxonomy browser search is across all releases, whereas MSL search is not.
The Taxonomy Browser automatically scrolls down to the species Measles morbillivirus. So now we know that this was the species name for measles at the time of the 2021 MSL release.
When you hover over the row, you will see the words “click for details” appear.
The rank names at the top of the page represent those that you selected from the browser, but you can always see the most recent ones below that.
For more details, please see the How-to video “The ICTV Taxonomy Browser: What it is and how to use it.”
Now that we know the species name for measles, let’s copy “Morbillivirus hominis,” download the current MSL, and do a search for the species name.
Now that we have located the species name in the MSL, I am going to highlight this row in yellow.
We see that the most current, complete taxonomic classification for the species is provided.
Also provided is the genome composition (which for this species is negative sense, single stranded RNA), the most recent taxonomic change (as we have seen, the species name was changed), the MSL in which the last change occurred (which was MSL38), and a URL for the proposal for the last change which is located on the ICTV website.
And finally, the last column in the MSL contains a URL for the taxon history, which we saw earlier in this video.