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The Full Virus

Researchers from the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and elsewhere argue in an mBio editorial that a standard vocabulary is needed to describe viral genome sequences.

"[T]here is currently no unifying framework, no common vocabulary about how 'finished' a particular viral genome is," first author Jason Ladner from USAMRIID says in a statement.

The researchers propose the use of five categories that reflect the degree to which the viral genome is completed. For instance, Ladner and his colleagues suggest that the term "standard draft" be applied to shotgun genome assemblies that have low or uneven coverage, while the label "complete" be given to sequences that have been fully resolved — even the non-protein coding sequences at the segment ends.

Other categories they propose include "high quality," "coding complete," and "finished."

"The rate at which viral genomes are being sequenced is only going to increase in the coming years, and without some standardization, it will be impossible for these valuable resources to be utilized to their full potential," Ladner and his colleagues say. "We present these categories as a starting point, with the goal of adjusting and refining them over time as our capabilities and needs continue to change."