Article proposing COVID-19, magnetism link to retract

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Update (November 5): The to study is now marked as temporarily removed from the Elsevier site.

A a peer-reviewed article suggesting that COVID-19 is not caused by SARS-CoV-2 but by magnetic anomalies will be retracted, according to the first author of the study and a journal editor who has it published The scientist. The study, “Can Traditional Chinese Medicine Provide Information on Controlling the COVID-19 Pandemic: Long-wavelength Lithospheric Magnetic Anomalies Induced by Serpentinization in Proterozoic Rock Substrates in a Weakened Geomagnetic Field mediate aberrant transformation of biogenic molecules in COVID-19 via magnetic catalysis, ”was posted on the Elsevier publication website Total environmental science on October 8, but attracted many critical from October 29, which led the University of Pittsburgh-based authors to request retraction.

“An article like this is published, it is published in a so-called peer-reviewed journal. . “And that’s a harmful thing.”

The study’s first author, Moses Bility, an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh who studies infectious diseases, says The scientist that the origin of the research came at the end of last year, when a few rats in his lab unexpectedly fell very ill and had to be sacrificed. “I’ve been working with animals since my undergraduate studies,” he says, and I’ve never seen a case before where “in the space of 12 hours a healthy animal barely falls, can’t to breathe”. Examining the tissues of the rats for an explanation, Bility found changes in their lungs and kidneys that he said were similar to injuries he had read in humans and attributed to vaping.

Bility began to suspect that there was a link between the injuries caused by vaping in humans and the pathology in rats, both of which he said originated from iron oxides in the lungs. “My argument was that the iron oxide that got deposited in the lungs of these people [from vaping] somehow interacts with the lithospheric magnetic field, ”he says. “And that’s what starts this process called magnetic catalysis, basically it’s spin chemistry. And in our animals, one way or another, there is a deregulation – because they are immunodeficient animals – in their iron that allows this same interaction to occur.

Bility posted a preprint at ResearchGate in November of last year exposing the idea. When asked why, if it was related to immunodeficiency, the same phenomenon has not been reported in immunocompromised humans, he replied, “I don’t know all the answers,” adding, “I do. don’t know how good people looked.

The group then killed more rats with the same pathology in February and March of this year, Bility says, and he connected the moment – near the spring equinox, which he said is associated with changes in the geomagnetic field – to that of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the United States. In the article, he and his co-authors propose that SARS-CoV-2 is an endogenous virus pre-existing in the human genome that is awakened by the effects of changes in the Earth’s magnetic field, but that the virus does not cause the observed pathology. . in COVID-19. Rather, they suggest, the disease occurs due to other chemical reactions in the body catalyzed by the magnetic field. When asked if the sequence for SARS-CoV-2 had been found in the human genome, Bility replied, “I am not a genomics expert. It was just something I wanted to watch, but I didn’t watch it.

Kirschvink says the document contains several basic errors. For example, while very strong magnetic fields can indeed influence chemical reactions, the long wavelength anomalies that are central to the thesis of the study are “three or four orders of magnitude” from what would be necessary for such effects, he said. “This section of results is a salad of different ideas taken out of context.”

The study also suggests, without experimental evidence, that jade amulets could protect wearers by counteracting the effects of long-wavelength anomalies, an idea Bility says has based on records of practices by ancient peoples in China. and elsewhere during a time when geomagnetic conditions were similar to what they are now. Kirschvink says that the description of the study of the magnetic properties of jade is incorrect and that in jade, “the paramagnetic minerals are so weakly magnetized that they will do nothing in these fields.”

Kirschvink says he has heard from fellow geomagnetism researchers who “are upset that their data is being used absurdly” in the paper.

The study also drew derision on Twitter and PubPeer. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine extracellular vesicle researcher Kenneth Witwer was among those who criticized the PubPeer article, writing in part: “Almost all symptoms were limited to exhibit number 1 of two pieces. adjacent to Pittsburgh, suggesting that a pathogen was responsible for the symptoms. The effects of the Earth’s magnetic field would likely be similar in side-by-side rooms in the same facility. “

Witwer also wrote an email with the subject line “Virus Denial Article: Were You Really Involved?” Friday to the lead authors of the article, Yue Chen and Jean Nachega of the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. In it, he calls the article “pseudoscience” and urges the authors to retract it immediately, adding that “I have also written to heads of departments about this serious situation.” Bility provided the email to The scientist as an example of what he called an “online mob” who “tried to damage my career and that of my colleagues.”

For his part, Witwer writes in an e-mail to The scientist, “The academy needs to be vigilant against pseudoscience and give it a voice.” He fears, he writes, that such an article published by scientists “with actual funding from the NIH and at a preeminent university” might appear to validate specious claims that COVID-19 stems from a cause other than SARS- CoV-2, which he compares to similar claims in the past about HIV / AIDS that “have led to a public health disaster.”

Through a spokesperson for the university, Nachega declined to comment on the case. Bility says that in light of the backlash his work has received, he regrets including his co-authors on paper, and he takes full responsibility for his ideas. His intention, he says, was not to undermine public health officials, but to come up with a hypothesis for further discussion and investigation, and he plans to resubmit the article as sole author. and without mention of jade amulets or traditional Chinese medicine.

Witwer and Kirschvink claim that the publication of the article represents a failure of the peer review. According to Damià Barceló, the editor-in-chief of Total environmental science who handled the submission, it had two reviewers, a hydrogeologist and an epidemiologist-toxicologist. In an email to The scientist yesterday he wrote that he expects the retraction to take hours or days to show up in Elsevier’s system, and that the resubmitted article will need to be returned for peer review before it is a final decision is made as to its acceptance.



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