Hey, that’s my case study: Another retraction after doctors claim rights to case write-up

A group of researchers have retracted their 2016 case report about a rare dermatologic disorder in the wake of disputes about authorship and institutional approval.

The paper describes a young boy with Job’s Syndrome, in which patients experience painful, itchy and frequently disfiguring skin lesions, along with a constellation of other possible symptoms. The condition is extremely rare, occurring in less than one in 1 million births.

This isn’t the first time a journal has retracted a case study after another group of authors claimed ownership of the case. Earlier this year, we covered a retraction from a neuro-ophthalmology journal after the doctors who treated a patient suffering from a gruesome eye trauma took issue with the fact that radiologists had already published their diagnostic images as a case study.

According to the notice for this latest retraction:

Retraction of this publication has been requested by author Dr. Kamran Khan and the Institute, Hospital Universitario de Caracas. While permission for publication had been obtained from the patient’s parent, permission had not been granted by the institute of care, and treating doctors at the institute were not included as authors in this publication, and are planning their own publication of this case.

The article, “A Boy with Relentless Pruritus: Job’s Syndrome,” appeared in the American Journal of Case Reports. It has been cited once since it was published in 2016, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

Danielle Benz, publishing editor of the journal, told us that

I received both the request from the author and the institute to retract the article.  Both letters requested retraction, so we felt that no alternative would have been satisfactory to both parties.

The retracted paper describes a 6-year-old boy with such bad skin irritation he can’t sleep. The authors — which include researchers based at the department of general surgery at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Aureus University School of Medicine in Aruba, and a psychoanalyst in private practice in Venezuela — noted that genetic testing revealed he had Job’s syndrome. They suggest genetic testing for patients with atopic dermatitis that doesn’t respond to treatment, along with psychotherapy for coping with the persistent discomfort.

According to the paper:

The patient was born in Venezuela, and had resided there for the entirety of his life…He did not have a history of travelling outside of Venezuela.  

The psychotherapist on the paper states that she treated the patient after he had scratched himself to the point of bleeding. It’s unclear what role the other three authors played in the patient’s care, although the beginning of the introduction states the patient was seen at “the clinic,” without specifying which one.

First described in the 1960s, Job’s syndrome gets its name from the Biblical character whose faith is repeatedly tested. In one such trial, God, at the urging of Satan, “smote Job with boils from the sole of his feet unto his crown.”

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