During the past decade 16 viruses which possess double-stranded ribonucleic acid (ds-RNA) genomes have been found in vertebrate, invertebrate, bacterial, higher plant and fungal hosts. Although once considered a small unique class of viruses, it is now apparent that ds-RNA viruses may be of common occurrence especially among the mycoviruses (viruses of fungi) and arboviruses. Besides the viruses discussed herein, there are presently more than 50 additional viruses which are considered as possibly containing ds-RNA genomes.

A comparison of these viruses with disregard to host specificities shows that many ds-RNA viruses share common properties and are similar enough to be considered as distinct groups of ds-RNA viruses. The purpose of this article is to present the salient chemical, physical and biological properties of these viruses as currently described, and to discuss the similarities and dissimilarities both within and between groups of these viruses.


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