Caught Our Notice: Dear peer reviewer, please read the methods section. Sincerely, everyone

Via Wikimedia

TitlePlasma contributes to the antimicrobial activity of whole blood against Mycobacterium tuberculosis

What Caught Our Attention: A big peer review (and perhaps academic mentorship) fail.  These researchers used the wrong anticoagulant for their blood samples, leading them to believe that certain blood components were fighting microbes. The authors counted the number of colonies to show how well or poorly Tuberculin mycobacteria were growing in cultures — but blood samples need anticoagulants to prevent clots before analysis, and they used an anticoagulant that actually prevented the microbes from colonizing. The authors (and reviewers) should have known this from a 1999 CDC publication about the diagnosis of tuberculosis (echoed in virtually every public health pamphlet since), which explicitly says not to use their anticoagulant — ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) — if intending to culture the blood sample for mycobacteria.

At least the post-publication peer review process seemed to work…a year later.

JournalInnate Immunity

Authors: Ramiro López-Medrano, José Manuel Guerra-Laso, Eduardo López-Fidalgo, Cristina Diez-Tascón, Silvia García-García, Sara Blanco-Conde, Octavio Miguel Rivero-Lezcano

Affiliations: Hospital Comarcal del Bierzo, León, Spain; Complejo Asistencial Universitario de León, (CAULE), León, Spain; Universidad de León, León, Spain; Fundación Instituto de Estudios de Ciencias de la Salud de Castilla y León (IECSCYL), León, Spain

The Notice:  

The authors did not realise that the use of EDTA created errors in the paper. Although mycobacteria remain alive in the presence of EDTA, the formation of visible colonies is inhibited, which affected the enumeration of colony forming units for the quantification of the antimicrobial activity. Consequently, the absence of colonies was erroneously interpreted as mycobactericidal activity. Due to this error the article’s main finding about the antimycobacterial activity detected in plasma is incorrect.

Date of Article: August 22, 2016

Times Cited, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science: Zero

Date of Notice: September 27, 2017

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2 thoughts on “Caught Our Notice: Dear peer reviewer, please read the methods section. Sincerely, everyone”

  1. This news proves once again how essential is for a submitted paper to come up against cultured, informed and intellectually honest peer reviewers.

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