Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Made from blood

My colleague Clare Thomas pointed me to this fascinating report in SciDev.net.

A Nigerian doctor is suing the Nigerian Academy of Science after challenging his claims that he has produced an effective HIV vaccine from the blood of infected patients. What struck us the most was the fact that Jerimiah Abalaka, the doctor in question, cites an article he published in the journal Vaccine as evidence of his claims’ legitimacy.

Why did Vaccine publish this paper? At the time of its publication, Ray Spier, editor of the journal, wrote an editorial saying that Abalaka’s study was not published a peer-reviewed research paper, but as a report. He then goes to great lengths to try to justify his decision to publish the paper and concludes by stating that “desperate situations call for desperate measures”.

This statement seems absurd to me. If the paper wasn’t peer reviewed, what is the true value of the data? I wish I could tell you how many charlatans send us papers every month, reporting cures for all kinds of diseases (including HIV, of course), and how quickly we reject them without further ado. How supremely irresponsible of Vaccine to publish something of such potential importance without peer review! Has science been served by the decision? The only thing that has come out of it is undue support for a man who is now in a stronger position to put the lives of thousands of people at risk.

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