Plagiarism forces retraction of Slavic bird flu paper

virosinA group of virologists from Kazakhstan and Russia have lost their 2011 bird flu article in Virologica Sinica. Their offense: plagiarizing from a previous article by a team from Sweden on a similar topic.

The paper, “Phylogenetic Analysis of the Non-structural (NS) Gene of Influenza A Viruses Isolated in Kazakhstan in 2002–2009,” which purported to show that:

Although the important role of the non-structural (NS1 and NEP) gene of influenza A in virulence of the virus is well established, our knowledge about the extent of variation in the NS gene pool of influenza A viruses in their natural reservoirs in Kazakhstan is incomplete. 17 influenza A viruses of different subtypes were studied in this paper. Seven types of haemagglutinin and five different neuraminidase subtypes in eight combinations were found among the isolated viruses. A comparison of nucleotide sequences of isolated viruses revealed a substantial number of silent mutations, which results in high degree of homology in amino acid sequences. By phylogenetic analysis it was shown that two distinct gene pools, corresponding to both NS allele A with 5 Clades and B, were present at the same time in Kazakhstan. The degree of variation within the alleles was very low. In our study allele A viruses had a maximum of 5% amino acid divergence in Clade while allele B viruses had only 4% amino acid divergence.

According to the retraction notice:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief, as it contains large portions of text that have been duplicated from “Phylogenetic analysis of the non-structural (NS) gene of influenza A viruses isolated from mallards in Northern Europe in 2005” published in Virology Journal (2008) 5:147, without sufficient attribution being given to the article. Despite the data / conclusion being original in the paper, this is violating the journal policy.

The paper has yet to be cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Here’s the first paragraph of the abstract of the Swedish study — the last reference (number 37) in the Kazakh-Russian paper:

Although the important role of the non-structural 1 (NS) gene of influenza A in virulence of the virus is well established, our knowledge about the extent of variation in the NS gene pool of influenza A viruses in their natural reservoirs in Europe is incomplete. In this study we determined the subtypes and prevalence of influenza A viruses present in mallards in Northern Europe and further analysed the NS gene of these isolates in order to obtain a more detailed knowledge about the genetic variation of NS gene of influenza A virus in their natural hosts.

And part of the results section of said abstract:

A comparison of nucleotide sequences of isolated viruses revealed a substantial number of silent mutations, which results in high degree of homology in amino acid sequences. The degree of variation within the alleles is very low. In our study allele A viruses displays a maximum of 5% amino acid divergence while allele B viruses display only 2% amino acid divergence. All the viruses isolated from mallards in Northern Europe possessed the typical avian ESEV amino acid sequence at the C-terminal end of the NS1 protein.

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