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Prestigious Medical Journal Retracts, Republishes Widely Cited ‘Long COVID’ Study Over ‘Data Errors’

Peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet retracted and republished a widely cited study regarding “long COVID” on Monday following an investigation prompted by a reader’s comment about “data errors.”

The Lancet published the original six-month paper on long COVID in January 2021, and has officially retracted it after being cited well over 2,000 times, including by the World Health Organization, according to watchdog Retraction Watch. The Lancet published a follow-up one-year version of the study in August and the publication was told that there were data inconsistencies between the papers that used the same set of cohorts, prompting the journal to submit an “Expression of Concern” and begin an investigation in November 2022.

“Some variables in the dataset used for the 6-month paper were mistakenly disrupted in order,” according to information The Lancet obtained. 

Researchers conducted the study on COVID-19 patients discharged from a hospital in Wuhan, China, and it was the first large cohort study on the “6-month consequences of COVID-19 in patients discharged from hospital,” according to The Lancet. 

After the “Expression of Concern,” the study was cited 400 more times, according to Retraction Watch. 

“Long COVID is broadly defined as signs, symptoms, and conditions that continue or develop after initial COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 infection,” according to

However, the National Institutes of Health published a study in May that discovered no evidence of long-term COVID-19 infection in patients six or more weeks after their initial infection, even if they said they were experiencing it. Additionally, it found that patients who reported experiencing long COVID were disproportionately women and people with a history of anxiety disorder.

The hypothesis that “long COVID” is psychosomatic is worth considering because of the strong association with psychological distress, a study by The National Library of Medicine in February 2023 asserted.

The Lancet published a follow-up one-year version of the study in August 2021. The journal received an inquiry from a reader about data inconsistencies between the two papers, leading the publication to reach out to the corresponding author Professor Bin Cao for explanation, according to an expression of concern The Lancet issued.

Following the investigation, The Lancet issued a notice about retracting the study on June 9, 2023 and published the corrected version on June 12.

“I really appreciate the comments from a reader about data and symptom questionnaire inconsistencies between 6-month and 1-year outcomes in hospital survivors with COVID-19,” Cao, a corresponding author of the study, told Retraction Watch. “The comments help us reanalysis of both database and find the errors at last.”

He said the corrections made no difference to the study’s conclusion.

Researchers have retracted 341 COVID-related studies because of errors and ethical concerns, according to Retraction Watch.

The Lancet and Cao did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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