Hepatitis expert up to five retractions and one expression of concern denies reusing images

Gulam Waris

A microbiology journal has issued an expression of concern over image reuse in a 2010 paper whose senior author has already racked up five retractions for duplicating figures. 

The article, “Activation of transcription factor Nrf2 by hepatitis C virus induces the cell-survival pathway,” appeared in the Journal of General Virology, a publication of the Microbiology Society. The last author of the paper is Gulam Waris, an expert in viral hepatitis who is on the faculty of the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago. The paper has been cited 75 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. 

By our count, Waris — whose work has made several appearances in PubPeer — has lost at least five papers to retraction for image duplication and questionable data. 

According to the new expression of concern, the paper recycled an actin immunoblot that had appeared in at least six other articles, one of which has been retracted. However, the journal seems not to believe the issue is fatal to the article: 

Although the results and conclusions of the article are not impacted by Fig. 6a in this paper [the recycled image], Journal of General Virology is publishing this statement in order to alert our readers that it raises concerns regarding the reliability of the data reported in the article.

Waris denied reusing images. In response to a request for comment from Retraction Watch, he wrote by email:

No, these bands/images were not reused in multiple publications over the years. Sometimes the banding pattern of a few proteins appears to be similar but that does not mean that they are exactly the same image. These studies were conducted several years and none of the authors are in the lab rightnow. We no longer have the original blots to verify these band/images. I did not duplicate the image and all these results are reproducible and reliable. Over the years several investigators have reproduced our data/results in their studies.

We also emailed the journal to find out why the editors decided that expressing concern about the work was better than retracting it outright. We’ll update this post if we learn more.

Update, 1600 UTC, 8/28/19: The Microbiology Society told us:

We were alerted to issues associated with papers by this author by the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, and initiated an investigation of DOI 10.1099/vir.0.014340-0 and DOI 10.1099/vir.0.034033-0 in line with COPE guidelines. Expressions of Concern were prepared for both papers while the investigation is underway (the second is due to be published today), as we believe that readers should be alerted to issues such as this as early as possible. We are still working with the Journal’s Editor-in-Chief in respect of Gulam Waris and anticipate retracting both articles once our investigation is complete.

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4 thoughts on “Hepatitis expert up to five retractions and one expression of concern denies reusing images”

  1. “These studies were conducted several years and none of the authors are in the lab rightnow”.

    Does that include himself?

  2. I see this type of statement often, especially from the investigators whose papers have just been retracted:

    “Although the results and conclusions of the article are not impacted by Fig. 6a in this paper [the recycled image], Journal of General Virology is publishing this statement in order to alert our readers that it raises concerns regarding the reliability of the data reported in the article.”

    How on earth does unreliable data not impact the results and conclusions? What is Fig. 6a doing in the paper if it has no impact on the results and conclusions?

    All I can think is that if you make stuff up, then indeed a photoshopped image will have no impact on the conclusions. The made-up conclusions will hold no matter what the purported “evidence” looks like.

  3. 2019 6th retraction for Gulam Waris.
    J Gen Virol. 2010 Mar;91(Pt 3):681-690. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.014340-0. Epub 2009 Nov 4.
    6 comments on PubPeer (by: Asphondylia Resinosa, Dociostaurus Kraussi, Colletes Harreri, Actinopolyspora Biskrensis)

    Activation of transcription factor Nrf2 by hepatitis C virus induces the cell-survival pathway.
    Burdette D1, Olivarez M1, Waris G1.
    Author information
    1
    Department of Microbiology and Immunology, H. M. Bligh Cancer Research Laboratories, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Chicago Medical School, 3333 Green Bay Road, North Chicago, IL 60064, USA.

    2019 retraction notice.
    https://www.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/jgv/10.1099/jgv.0.001340

    The article ‘Activation of transcription factor Nrf2 by hepatitis C virus induces the cell-survival pathway’ which was published in the Journal of General Virology in March 2010 has been retracted. This follows formal findings of research misconduct from the Compliance Counsel at Rosalind Franklin University. The actin immunoblot shown in Fig. 6a was found to have been reused in the following publications to represent the loading control at different experimental conditions: Waris et al. (2005) J. Virol. 79, 1569–1580 [1], Waris and Siddiqui (2005) J. Virol. 79, 9725–9734 [2], Waris et al. (2007) J. Virol. 81, 8122–8130 [3], Nasimuzzaman et al. (2007) J. Virol. 81, 10249–10257 [4], Burdette et al. (2010) J. Gen. Virol. 91, 681–690 [5], Burdette et al. (2012) J. Gen. Virol. 93, 235–246 [6], and McRae et al. (2016) J. Biol. Chem. 291, 3254–3267 [7].

    Gulam Waris does not agree that the actin immunoblot was reused in other publications.

    References

    Waris G, Turkson J, Hassanein T, Siddiqui A. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) constitutively activates STAT-3 via oxidative stress: role of STAT-3 in HCV replication. J Virol 2005;79: 1569– 1580 https://jvi.asm.org/content/79/3/1569

    Waris G, Siddiqui A. Hepatitis C virus stimulates the expression of cyclooxygenase-2 via oxidative stress: role of prostaglandin E2 in RNA replication. J Virol 2005;79: 9725– 9734 https://jvi.asm.org/content/79/15/9725

    Waris G, Felmlee DJ, Negro F, Siddiqui A. Hepatitis C virus induces proteolytic cleavage of sterol regulatory element binding proteins and stimulates their phosphorylation via oxidative stress. J Virol 2007;81: 8122– 8130 https://jvi.asm.org/content/81/15/8122

    Nasimuzzaman M, Waris G, Mikolon D, Stupack DG, Siddiqui A et al. Hepatitis C virus stabilizes hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha and stimulates the synthesis of vascular endothelial growth factor. J Virol 2007;81: 10249– 10257 https://jvi.asm.org/content/81/19/10249

    Burdette D, Olivarez M, Waris G. Activation of transcription factor Nrf2 by hepatitis C virus induces the cell-survival pathway. J Gen Virol 2010;91: 681– 690 https://jgv.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/jgv/10.1099/vir.0.014340-0
    6 comments on PubPeer (by: Asphondylia Resinosa, Dociostaurus Kraussi, Colletes Harreri, Actinopolyspora Biskrensis)

    Burdette D, Haskett A, Presser L, McRae S, Iqbal J et al. Hepatitis C virus activates interleukin-1β via caspase-1-inflammasome complex. J Gen Virol 2012;93: 235– 246 https://jgv.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/jgv/10.1099/vir.0.034033-0#tab2
    3 comments on PubPeer (by: Asphondylia Resinosa, Hypericum Grandifolium)

    McRae S, Iqbal J, Sarkar-Dutta M, Lane S, Nagaraj A et al. The hepatitis C virus-induced NLRP3 inflammasome activates the sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP) and regulates lipid metabolism. J Biol Chem 2016;291: 3254– 3267 http://www.jbc.org/content/291/7/3254

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