Retracted paper linking HPV vaccine to behavioral issues republished after revisions

immunological-researchA retracted study linking the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) to behavioral problems in mice has been republished by a different journal.

The paper has been significantly revised, an author told us, but it still comes the same conclusions. 

In February, the journal Vaccine temporarily removed the study without explanation, and told the authors the editor had asked for further review. Later that month, Vaccine retracted the paper, citing “serious concerns regarding the scientific soundness of the article,” and “seriously flawed” methodology. 

In July, another journal — Immunologic Research — republished the paper. The new version of the paper has been significantly changed, co-author Christopher Shaw from the University of British Columbia (UBC) told Retraction Watch:

Much of [the] original paper that was retracted from Vaccine was revised based on the comments of the second set of reviewers for Vaccine that we found of value.

As we previously reported, the previous version of the paper, Behavioral abnormalities in young female mice following administration of aluminum adjuvants and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil,” (which has been removed entirely by Vaccine), said:

It appears that Gardasil via its Al adjuvant and HPV antigens has the ability to trigger neuroinflammation and autoimmune reactions, further leading to behavioral changes.

The new paper in Immunologic Research, “Behavioral abnormalities in female mice following administration of aluminum adjuvants and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil,” contains the same sentence in its abstract.

Furthermore, in the new version of the study, the authors conclude:

…both Al and Gardasil vaccine injections resulted in behavioral abnormalities in mice…

Shaw added that the new paper has been peer reviewed again, but said he had not seen the referees’ comments, referring us to the study’s last and corresponding author, Yehuda Shoenfeld, based at Tel-Aviv University in Israel.

Shoenfeld did not respond to requests for comment.

As we previously reported, Shaw and another co-author of the paper, Lucija Tomljenovic (also at UBC), have previously published a study that suggested that aluminium in vaccines is linked to autism; subsequently, a World Health Organization advisory body concluded that this study (and another by the pair) were “seriously flawed.”

When we previously reported on the case, Shaw noted that Shoenfeld is not anti-vaccine:

He will routinely start his talk with “vaccines are the greatest medical invention of all time [and] will save millions of lives.”

Shaw told us that the authors stand by their paper in Immunologic Research, and believe that it is scientifically sound.

Asked for comment, Julius Cruse, the editor-in-chief of Immunologic Research, referred us to the editor representing Springer Publishers, Basel, Dieter Klueber. We’ve contacted Klueber, and will update this post if we hear back.

Between 2006 and 2015, roughly 80 million doses of Gardasil were administered.

We’ve also found three corrigenda for papers by Shoenfeld, one of which addresses the safety of vaccination during pregnancy — here’s the correction for “Autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA) 2013: Unveiling the pathogenic, clinical and diagnostic aspects,” issued by the Journal of Autoimmunity:

The authors would like to inform the readers that the following error was made in the original article:

The paper incorrectly described an elevated risk of fetal death following maternal influenza vaccination. However, Håberg SE et al. (Håberg SE, Trogstad L, Gunnes N, Wilcox AJ, Gjessing HK, Samuelsen SO et al. Risk of fetal death after pandemic influenza virus infection or vaccination. N Engl J Med 2013;368:333e40) found that the fetal death risk decreased after vaccination. They found among pregnant women with a clinical diagnosis of influenza that the risk of fetal death was increased (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.91; 95% CI, 1.07 to 3.41) but the risk of fetal death was reduced with vaccination during pregnancy, although this reduction was not significant (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.66 to 1.17). Thus, influenza vaccination should be considered an effective preventive strategy during pregnancy.

The authors wish to apologise for any inconvenience caused.

The 2013 paper has been cited 57 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

Here’s another corrigendum in the same journal issued in February for a 2014 paper, “Anti-ribosomal-P antibodies accelerate lupus glomerulonephritis and induce lupus nephritis in naïve mice” (yet to be cited):

Unfortunately the following error was made for Fig. 3B in the original article:

There were 2 negative pictures, no immunoglobulin deposits in the kidney sections originated from the lupus mice (NZB × W/F1) at an early stage and in the adjuvant injected lupus prone mice.

The mistake was technical; the author had two negative pictures from the 2 groups. The author chosed [sic] the negative pictures from each group but uploaded twice the negative picture from the group of adjuvant injected mice.

Therefore, please find the corrected negative picture below.

Image for unlabelled figure

The authors wish to apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Finally, the third corrigendum fixes the wording of a sentence in a 2009 paper by Shoenfeld.

Update, 10/24/16, 12:15 p.m. Eastern: We’ve now heard back from Shoenfeld, who noted that the authors hadn’t modified their methodology, adding:

The original paper was good enough and was accepted by the deputy editor after peer reviews.

Update, 10/25/16, 4 p.m. Eastern: Immunologic Research publisher Nature-Springer tells us:

The issue is under investigation and we cannot provide further information at this time.

Hat tip: D. Marie

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3 thoughts on “Retracted paper linking HPV vaccine to behavioral issues republished after revisions”

  1. Who’s in charge at Immunologic Research?

    Topic Editors
    Immunoregulation and Autoimmunity
    Yehuda Shoenfeld, Tel-Hashomer, Israel

  2. As a general question, what is the copyright status of a paper where the authors transfer ownership to the publisher, who then decides to retract it? (or in this case, withdraw the paper, as it had not progressed as far as full publication).

    If the publisher retains the rights, is it self-plagiarism and breach of copyright when the authors then put out another version of the same paper with a different publisher?

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