Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘infectious disease’ Category

Plague or anthrax on the subway? Think again, says now-corrected study

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Cell SystemsAuthors of a widely covered study that documented traces of plague and anthrax on surfaces across New York City have revised the paper after public health officials challenged their interpretations of the data.

It’s hard to overestimate the attention these findings received when first published.

Bubonic plague found in NYC subway,” wrote The Daily Beast.

Your subway seat mate: Bubonic plague, anthrax, & mysterious DNA,” said Yahoo!

NY subway has bubonic plague,” declared Newser.

Not so fast. In an erratum published July 29, the authors write: Read the rest of this entry »

HIV postdoc faked data in published paper, 2 grants

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Julia_B

Julia Bitzegeio

An HIV researcher has admitted to faking data in a published paper, a manuscript, and two grant applications, according to a notice released today by the the Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

Former postdoc Julia Bitzegeio faked data in a 2013 paper, published in the Journal of Virology, about how HIV adapts to interferon. In the paper, “the manipulation was really minor,” Theodora Hatziioannouprincipal investigator of the lab at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center (ADARC) in New York City where Bitzegeio worked, told Retraction Watch. “She just made cosmetic changes.”

The paper will be corrected, Hatziioannou said. Bitzegeio has left her lab, and her future is somewhat less clear:

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Ethics dispute forces retraction of paper on Hep C in Japanese leper colony

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jcmcoverHere’s a case of retraction being a hammer when a scalpel might have been better.

The authors of a 2011 paper in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology looking at transmission of hepatitis C in a former leper colony in Japan have retracted the article because an ethics panel in that country objected to the scientists’ use of fetal tissue.

The article involves a controversial aspect of modern Japanese history — the country’s efforts to eradicate leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, by isolating patients in a string of state-run sanatoriums. The policy was eventually realized to be unnecessary and ruled unconstitutional in 2001, triggering a wave of apologies to patients and their families.

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Journal quarantines MERS paper, posts EoC for “rights to use the data”

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ES_anniversary_bannerEurosurveillance is investigating potential problems with study on the deadly breakout of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in South Korea. The notice was issued after the journal discovered that study data might have been used without permission.

Epidemiological investigation of MERS-CoV spread in a single hospital in South Korea, May to June 2015,” was published last month by a group of researchers at the Gyeonggi Infectious Disease Control Center in Korea, and details 37 cases of people at one hospital, one portion of the nearly 200 who’ve developed the new respiratory infection since the outbreak began. The researchers tracked the path of infection from one initial patient to 25 secondary cases, who then infected 11 additional people. As the researchers note:

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AIDS vaccine fraudster sentenced to nearly 5 years in prison and to pay back $7 million

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court case

A researcher who confessed to spiking rabbit blood samples to make the results of an HIV vaccine experiment look better has been sentenced to 57 months of prison time, according to The Des Moines Register.

Dong-Pyou Han has also been ordered to repay more than $7 million to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and will have three years of supervised release following his prison term.

In December, 2013, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity announced that Han, formerly at Iowa State University (ISU), had faked his results to make an HIV vaccine look more powerful. The faulty data made their way into seven national and international symposia between 2010 and 2012 (resulting in a retracted poster in 2014), along with three grant applications and multiple progress reports. Han agreed to a three-year research ban, and resigned from ISU in October the following year.

The NIH never sent the final $1.38 million grant payment of more than $10 million awarded to Han’s boss, Michael Cho, and ISU returned nearly $500,000 it had received for Han’s salary and other costs.

However, Read the rest of this entry »

“The first author assumes all responsibility:” Malaria vaccine article retracted for image manipulation

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InfectAndImmunAuthors of a 2012 article in Infection and Immunity investigating a malaria vaccine strategy are retracting it because it “contains several images that do not accurately reflect the experimental data.”

The paper, “Fine Specificity of Plasmodium vivax Duffy Binding Protein Binding Engagement of the Duffy Antigen on Human Erythrocytes,” has been cited 9 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

The retraction notice places the blame for the image shenanigans squarely on the first author, Asim Siddiqui, who is currently listed on LinkedIn as a faculty member at the College of Applied Medicine at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia.

Here’s the notice: Read the rest of this entry »

PNAS paper on dengue virus pulled due to contamination

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PNAS_ak11smThe authors of a paper on dengue virus vaccine design published last year in PNAS are retracting it after discovering that their experimental dengue virus was contaminated.

Although they are confident that the strategy is sound, the authors write in their commendably detailed retraction notice that the “inadvertent error” rendered the results “uninterpretable.”

Here’s the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alla Katsnelson

May 12th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Frontiers lets HIV denial article stand, reclassifies it as “opinion”

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frontiers phFollowing an investigation sparked by criticism for its decision to publish a paper questioning the link between HIV and AIDS, a Frontiers journal has decided to not retract the article but rebrand it as an “opinion.”

In September, 2014, Patricia Goodson, a professor of health education at Texas A&M University, published an article called “Questioning the HIV-AIDS hypothesis: 30 years of dissent.”

The paper was quickly called into question, and the journal, Frontiers in Public Health, issued a statement of concern and promised to look into the problem. Now, they’ve announced their solution: call the paper an “opinion” and publish an argument against it.

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A rare event: Toronto Star retracts fear-mongering vaccine story

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TorontoStarOriginalGardasilHeadlineFifteen days after publishing a widely-criticized article linking anecdotal health problems to the HPV vaccine Gardasil, the Toronto Star has issued a retraction.

The Page 1 story, “A wonder drug’s dark side,” was full of health horror stories from women who became sick “sometime after” the vaccine, as the retraction notes – twitching limbs, feeding tubes, even death. Each of these stories came from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a public database of anecdotes maintained by the U.S. government to help monitor rare side effects that might emerge when the vaccine is given to millions of people.

In mining this database of self-reported illness, the Star failed to give equal weight to the large body of scientific evidence that says Gardasil has very low rates of adverse effects and a huge public health benefit. The publisher’s note both acknowledges the criticism and explains where the story went wrong:

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Written by Cat Ferguson

February 23rd, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Posted in infectious disease

Fraud’s long tail: Measles outbreak shows why it’s important to look downstream of retractions

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Child with measles, via Wikipedia/CDC

Child with measles, via Wikipedia/CDC

As Retraction Watch readers know, public health officials are concerned about a U.S. measles outbreak. As The New York Times notes:

The United States has already had more cases of measles in the first month of 2015 than the number that is typically diagnosed in a full year. This follows a year in which the number of cases was several times more than the average since 2000, when the disease was declared eliminated in the United States.

As Retraction Watch readers also know, the discredited autism-vaccines link, fears of which lead some parents to skip their kids’ vaccations, rears its ugly head periodically. Much of the related anti-vaccine movement can be tied to a 1998 study in the Lancet by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues that was eventually retracted in 2010: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 3rd, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Posted in infectious disease