Varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the cause of chickenpox and zoster, was the first human herpesvirus to be sequenced fully and the first for which vaccines have been licensed and widely used. Three groups have published genotyping schemes based on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and, between them, have identified five distinct phylogenetic clades, with an additional two putative clades. Sequencing of over 23 whole VZV genomes from around the world further refined the phylogenetic distinctions between SNP genotypes. Widespread surveillance in countries in which the varicella vaccine is now in use and the difficulties posed by three unique genotyping approaches prompted an international meeting, at which a common nomenclature based on phylogenetic clades was agreed upon. In this paper, we review the original genotyping schemes and discuss the basis for a novel common nomenclature for VZV strains. We propose a minimum set of SNPs that we recommend should be used to genotype these viruses. Finally, we suggest criteria by which novel clades can be recognized.


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