Neurological Sciences, the official journal of the Italian Society of Neurology, has retracted a 2009 article by a Korean scientist after learning that the manuscript contained elements of a 2007 publication in a different publication.
According to the notice:
This article has been retracted upon request of the author since he unwillingly reported clinical data already published in the article “A case of Acute Organotin Poisoning” (C.I. Yoo, Y. Kim et al. J. Occup Health 2007; 49:305-3010, DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1539/joh.49.305).
The now-retracted paper has been cited just once, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
The author of the 2009 article, Chang Ho Hwang, shares an affiliation with the authors of the earlier paper — Ulsan University — making us wonder how the “unwillingly reported” data found its way into his manuscript. We think a side-by-side of the abstracts is instructive here:
The Hwang paper:
Organotin compounds are commonly used in industrial and agriculture. It causes toxic effects on skin, eyes, respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, and nervous system. After cleaning a di-methyl tin tank, 43-year-old man showed a dizziness, disorientation, visual hallucination, and agitation. Through a measurement by liquid chromatography and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, di-methyl tin and tri-methyl tin was detected. Although magnetic resonance (MR) image 3 days after exposure showed no abnormal signal intensity, follow-up MR images 15 days after exposure revealed abnormal extensive signal intensities in the white matter that was not ever coincident with previous reports. It was hardly explainable that previous abnormal signal intensities of MR image nearly disappeared 4 months later. We present a case of a patient who developed acute toxic leukoencephalopathy from an acute inhalational exposure to methyl tin with sequential MR images showing an involvement of white matter that was not ever reported.
And the 2007 article:
A 43-year-old male with disorientation and behavioral change was admitted to a hospital. He had been working as a tank cleaner for several different companies in the previous 8 years and a week before admission, he had cleaned a tank containing dimethyltin (DMT) for 4 days. A day after finishing the job, he suffered decreased memory, behavioral change and progressive mental deterioration when he arrived at the emergency room. The result of spinal tapping was negative but on the 4th day of admission he deteriorated into a state of coma along with metabolic acidosis and severe hypokalemia. High levels of DMT and trimethyltin (TMT) were detected in a highly sensitive urine analysis. After conservative treatment and chelation therapy, the patient showed some clinical improvement but the neurological defects persisted. CONCLUSION: The patient appeared to have been intoxicated from the acute exposure to a high level of organotin while cleaning the tank.
The Journal of Occupational Health belongs to the Japanese Society for Occupational Health.
We have a question or two about this case. Did Hwang see an opportunity to publish on the case in a different journal on a slice of the topic (the MRI data) that didn’t get as much, if any, attention in the original manuscript? That doesn’t make the second paper any less a duplication of the first.
We should also note a potential red flag here: A single author using the word “we” in the more recent article. That’s a pronoun that ought to be reserved for group efforts. (We use “we” because while each post is signed by one of us, we write and edit them together.) It has proven to be a signal for something amiss before.