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Research reports 15.07.2019

Characteristics and pathogenicity determination of insect-specific RNA and DNA viruses

(CGM 2019-01)

COGEM advices the Dutch Government on the required containment measures for activities involving genetically modified organisms (GMOs). To do so properly, it first has to be determined if an organism is pathogenic, and if so to what extent. In recent years the number of species of (micro) organisms that are being investigated in research laboratories has increased greatly.  As a result, the number of applications for pathogenicity classifications has been very high in the recent years.

Due to the increase in research involving insect viruses, it is expected that COGEM will increasingly be asked for advice on the pathogenicity classification of insect viruses for experiments with GMOs. Therefore COGEM commissioned a research project in order to examine whether it is possible to generically classify insect-specific viruses.

The project was carried out by professor Just Vlak (Viro-Logica). Based on review of scientific literature and the current taxonomy of viruses as determined by the ‘International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses’ (ICTV) the researcher has determined which of the 34 investigated taxa are insect-specific. In the research report a further examination is made of the characteristics and biology of insect-specific viruses including their pathogenicity. The report also includes an overview table in which the most frequently used insects in production systems have been listed and their associated putative insect-specific viruses are indicated.