Plagiarism spells demise of complementary medicine paper

JEBCAMThe Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary Medicine (JEBCAM) has retracted a 2013 review on probiotics by an author from Turkey who patched the paper together from a variety of other sources — and then appears to have reused his own work elsewhere without attribution.

The article was written by Öner Özdemir, a pediatric allergy specialist at İstanbul Medeniyet University. According to the abstract:

The increased prevalence of atopic/autoimmune diseases is nowadays defined as an endemic. Recent epidemiologic data showed that children with allergic/autoimmune disease have a different intestinal flora from healthy ones. Therefore, regulation of intestinal microflora composition by probiotics offers the possibility to influence the development of autoimmune/atopic diseases. And probiotics have been reported as capable preventive and therapeutic strategy in allergic/autoimmune diseases. The aim is to summarize/evaluate the available knowledge of probiotic use from randomized/nonrandomized controlled clinical trials, apart from reviews and meta-analyses. Those clinical trials involving studies of atopic/autoimmune disease indicated that not all patients receiving the probiotic agent benefited. But subsets of these patients, such as those with IgE-associated eczema and ulcerative colitis, seemed to have benefited the most. There is inadequate but quite promising evidence in the literature to recommend the addition of probiotics to foods. Nonetheless, probiotics still cannot be generally recommended for prevention/treatment of allergic/autoimmune diseases.

Here’s the notice:

“Preventative and Therapeutic Role of Probiotics in Various Allergic and Autoimmune Disorders: An Up-to-Date Literature Review of Essential Experimental and Clinical Data,” by Öner Özdemir, Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, April 2013 (18:2), doi:10.1177/2156587212461279.

This article has been retracted due to unattributed overlap with material from other sources and due to duplicate publication.

The unattributed excerpts in the article were taken from the following sources:

  1. Ouwehand AC. Antiallergic effects of probiotics. J Nutr. 2007;137(3 suppl 2):794S–797S.

  2. Saavedra JM. Use of probiotics in pediatrics: rationale, mechanisms of action, and practical aspects. Nutr Clin Pract. 2007;22:351–365. doi:10.1177/0115426507022003351.

  3. Rook GA, Brunet LR. Microbes, immunoregulation, and the gut. Gut. 2005;54:317–320. doi:10.1136/gut.2004.053785.

  4. Michail S. The role of probiotics in allergic diseases. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2009;5:5. doi:10.1186/1710-1492-5-5.

The author also published the following works that include significant unattributed excerpts from the article:

  1. Özdemir Ö, Erol AY. Preventative and therapeutic probiotic use in allergic skin conditions: experimental and clinical findings. BioMed Res Int. 2013;2013:932391. doi:10.1155/2013/932391.

  2. Özdemir Ö. The role of probiotics in atopic dermatitis prevention and therapy. In: Esparza-Gordillo J, Dekio I, eds. Atopic Dermatitis: Disease Etiology and Clinical Management. Rijeka, Croatia: InTech; 2012:353–386. doi:10.5772/25301.

The notice is unusual in that it is a bit forward-thinking, that is, it points to other problematic papers that relied on the paper being retracted.

We also found nearly identical wording in the retracted article and this paper by Özdemir. Look for the line: “There is inadequate but quite promising evidence in the literature to recommend the addition of probiotics to foods.”

Development of the child’s immune system tends to be directed toward a T-helper 2 (Th2) phenotype in infants. To prevent development of childhood allergic/atopic diseases, immature Th2-dominant neonatal responses must undergo environment-driven maturation via microbial contact in the early postnatal period. Lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria are found more commonly in the composition of the intestinal flora of nonallergic children. Epidemiological data also showed that atopic children have a different intestinal flora from healthy children. Probiotics are ingested live health-promoting microbes that can modify intestinal microbial populations in a way that benefits the host; and enhanced presence of probiotic bacteria in the intestinal microbiota is found to correlate with protection against atopy. There is insufficient but very promising evidence to recommend the addition of probiotics to foods for prevention and treatment of allergic diseases, especially atopic dermatitis. Clinical improvement especially in allergic rhinitis and IgE-sensitized (atopic) eczema has been reported too. Literature data for food allergy/hypersensitivity and asthma are not adequate for this guaranteed conclusion; however, clinical benefit of probiotic therapy depends on numerous factors, such as type of bacterium, dosing regimen, delivery method, and other underlying host factors, e.g., the age and diet of the host. The selection of the most beneficial probiotic strain, the dose, and the timing of supplementation still need to be determined. Accordingly, probiotics can not be recommended generally for primary prevention of atopic disease; and if probiotics are used in atopic infants/children for any reason, such as therapy or prevention, cautionary approach ought to be taken.

Not sure how all this escaped the notice of plagiarism detection software. We emailed the journal to find out but haven’t heard back.

Update, 7:15 p.m. Eastern, 6/6/14: A commenter points out that one of the papers mentioned in the notice has also been retracted.


5 thoughts on “Plagiarism spells demise of complementary medicine paper”

  1. “Not sure how all this escaped the notice of plagiarism detection software.”

    No doubt they used alternative and complementary detection software.

    1. I have claimed before that no such software exists. Moreover, I have been critical about iThenticate precisely because a retraction can result from data, text or figure duplication (aka plagiarism). Yet, iThenticate charges a fortune to universities for its software, which if unable to detect figure duplications, is equivalent to being faulty software. One of the disgraceful (in my opinion) fall-outs of the Obokata case here in Japan is the sudden purchase of universities of the iThenticate software. I have sent several complaints to iThenticate myself complaining that their culture of greed has no place in science and that making profits off of others’ fraud is, in my view, a highly unethical business model. I proposed that, for the better good of Humankind and Nature, that they make iThenticate free for the scientific community to use. But this is the ruthless world we live in that has smothered altruism in the name of corporate profits. I propose the boycotting of companies like iParadigms LLC and groups like COPE for having hypocritical and ideologically and ethically conflicting policies. If I were an author, journal, institute or publisher that has purchased iThenticate or other similar “plagiarism” detection software, I would demand my money back, simply because it only detects text-based plagiarism, which then only offers protection against 50% of the true risk (figures not detectable). Until the scientific public continues to support such companies, and their products, and while corporate groups masqueraded as ethical bodies continue to reap profits and cook their membership, providing an ideal platform for the profiteering of other groups and companies, science will be corrupted, by money. I have stated on ample occasions, we do not need reform in science, because this revolving door of money has corrupted the system deep and wide. We need a revolution because it’s starting to look like a real case of bad patch-work with all these cases of retractions.

    1. This review in JCIM (DeGruyter) sounds very similar:

      Dr. Öner Özdemir’s Intech Profile ( states: “Doc. Dr. Oner Ozdemir was born in Alaplı, Zonguldak, Turkey in 1965. He has graduated from İstanbul Medical School, İstanbul University and become a medical doctor in 1989. Dr. Ozdemir did his pediatric residency at Department of Pediatrics in Children’s Hospital, İstanbul Medical School, İstanbul, Turkey. His clinical fellowship training was finished at Pediatric Allergy/Immunology division in Louisiana State University, Health Sciences Centre, New Orleans, LA. Dr. Ozdemir research areas are as follows: LAK-cell generation and cell-mediated cytotoxicity; human mast cell development and mast cell-mediated cytotoxicity; and apoptosis related research. He was the first place winner of Clemens Von Pirquet Award from ACAAI at ACAAI meeting in 2005 for the best research on allergy/asthma/immunology by a fellow in training. Dr. Ozdemir has more than 50 international plus 20 national publications, as well as 90 international and 30 national presentations, and more than 5 chapters related to my research areas. Currently, he works as a chief at the third clinic of pediatrics associated with the division of pediatric allergy/immunology at İstanbul Medeniyet University, Göztepe Teaching and Training Hospital, Kadıköy, İstanbul, Turkey.”

      On that same page, he has edited two books and written two book chapters. In essence, book chapters and reviews are quite similar. It appears, at least from these two retractions, that he is a potential serial plagiarist. It would be important, for anyone willing to pursue the investigation, to compare the texts of his book chapters and his edited books to examine if the disease has spread elsewhere.

      More papers can be observed here:

      What about the review here (any plagiarism)? (pp 1-14)

      Please observe one such open access book edited by Dr. Özdemir (some queries and concerns with figures by authors from different countries; no deep analysis; text not analyzed):
      Fig. 1 on Capillary hemangioma and Fig. 2 on Left dacryocele. Are they the authors’ originals? (page 4/9; p. 11/16 of PDF file) Same query for figures 3-9. Do these subjects even know that their photos were published publically?
      Is it legal, or ethical, to show patented and copyrighted commercial products in an academic paper, without any acknowledgement, or notice of permission by these companies? (page 61-62; p. 68-69 of PDF file)
      Some of the figures on anal fissure anatomy seem to be plucked straight off the internet, without attribution (page 54; p. 60 of PDF file)
      Where do the chemical structures of Nifediine come from? (page 58; p. 64 of PDF file)
      Where is Fig 1 from (source)? (page 74; p. 81 of PDF file)
      Were copyright permissions obtained for all the “used” figures and tables from so many sources? (chapter 6)
      Odd referencing of figures in chapter 8 (were appropriate permissions obtained?).
      These concerns (which need to be validated) call into question the editorial ability of this scientist, and perhaps also the quality control of this publisher (InTech).

      Dr. Özdemir serves as an editor on the board of the following journals (incomplete list):
      Open Journal of Immunology (SCIRP)*
      Journal of Life Medicine (VKingPub)
      Prime Research on Medicine (Prime Journals)*

      * These journals are listed on Beall’s list of predatory open access journals.

      The key question is: if two papers have already been retracted based on plagiarism, and this is a fundamental corner-stone of science publishing, then should Dr. Özdemir be serving on the editorial board of any scientific journal? Maybe someone (anonymously or not) needs to make this case to the publishers and editors of these journals.

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