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Some considerations on the retraction paper for the Corman-Drosten PCR test

With a lot of fuss, 22 ‘experts’ have requested the retraction of the first scientific article that describes a PCR test for the coronavirus. According to this club, led by molecular biologist and creationist Pieter Borger, a lot is wrong with it. The test was designed, however, by internationally leading scientists such as Christian Drosten and Marion Koopmans. So to show that it is no good you will have to come up with some pretty good arguments, but that is rather disappointing in this case.

Update 4 February 2021: Eurosurveillance rejects the request for retraction.

Borger on Twitter: “We are ready! Retraction request indicating all design errors of the RT-PCR test can now be sent to Eurosurveillance. 20 PCR experts worldwide participated! A monster job, but with the potential to kill the monster that grips the world!”

The attention-grabbing for their action, which had been going on on social media for some time before the actual submission of their ‘retraction paper’, has been successful to the extent that the Russian propaganda channel RT has picked it up and Member of Parliament Wybren van Haga (for the far-right party Forum for Democracy of Thierry Baudet) has asked questions in Parliament on the matter. The fundamentalist Christian newspaper Reformatorisch Dagblad, in which Borger regularly published creationist pieces, also paid attention to it, but not in a way he had anticipated: “PCR test survives a flood of criticism“. According to Borger, the journalist had set him up and had passed the science journalists of the paper.

The criticism of the ‘Corman-Drosten paper‘ (Victor Corman is the first author of the article) is quite technical in nature and for someone who has no expertise in the field of PCR, it is often difficult to assess its value. I certainly do not have that knowledge, so I will be modest here. Borger, however, presents his club of 22 as experts without hesitation (see his tweet above), whereas this is clearly only true for at most a few of them. One signatory, the Dutch malicious neurologist Jan Bonte, admits on Twitter:

Bonte using his pseudonym: “@BorgerPieter I am not a PCR expert and I never will be. That is not a bad thing at all. But isn’t this the same thing you said? #PCR test”

At the end of this article, I will discuss some other people from the list, as I did on Twitter. Some (mostly anonymous) tweeps argued that I only tweet such ad hominems only because I anxiously want to avoid having a look at the content of the criticism by Borger et al. This is demonstrably false, but a blog such as this one lends itself better for this purpose than threads on Twitter.

Review report Corman-Drosten et al. Eurosurveillance 2020

The retraction paper (for which they have set up their own website) contains 10 points of criticism, ‘major scientific flaws’ in their words. These range from wobbly primers and problems with annealing temperatures to the lack of a prescribed breaking point for the number of cycles. It would go too far to explain in detail here how such an RT-qPCR test works, just read it on Wikipedia and read, for example, an interesting thread by the Australian virologist Ian Mackay on Twitter in which he explains how to carry out the procedure in practice.

Much of the criticism boils down to the fact that the primers and probes proposed in the Corman-Drosten article are not well chosen. Precisely those elements should recognize and multiply (parts) of the coronavirus RNA while ignoring RNA from other sources. According to Borger, the test is ‘completely non-specific’:

“The Covid test is completely non-specific. The beds may as well be full of influenza pneumonia. This is normal for this time of year. You can call it Covid, but then you have to test it specifically, @MinPress”

The idea that patients who are now in hospitals and ICUs with Covid-19 would actually have flu is somewhat peculiar, given the fact that flu does not circulate at all at the moment (in the Netherlands at least) as can be seen in the NIVEL surveillance. I doubt that Borger really means that the Covid test is so non-specific that it can also turn out positive when someone is infected with influenza only.

In an earlier article on LinkedIn, Borger complained that the Corman-Drosten test would also be positive with SARS-CoV (the SARS virus that appeared in 2002/2003) and some other (bat) coronaviruses. He could not explain to me at the time why this would pose a problem. On the contrary, the test was specially designed to be positive for SARS-CoV as well, because material from that virus was easily available to laboratories and could therefore be used as a positive control. This feature of the test does not give false positives because that virus has not been found in humans since 2003, and neither have those bat viruses of course. Drosten explained this clearly in the media earlier this year:

Drosten on NDR, 18 March 2020: “It is true, but this is of course completely misleading information, purely theoretically this test would react against the old SARS corona virus. But that has not been present in humans for 16 years. And in theory, this test would also react against a whole range of bat corona viruses, but they do not exist in humans either.”

Other risks for false positives?

One of the primers would also exactly match a bacterium, Pantoea agglomerans. It could be found in people with a malfunctioning immune system. Is that something to worry about? I don’t think so. If you try to figure out in what circumstances this bacterium could pose a problem, you’ll soon discover that it’s a bacterium that occurs in plants. If, for example, you prick yourself on an infected plant, you could get a local infection. With a malfunctioning immune system, such an infection can get out of hand and even lead to sepsis. However, this seldom happens. And before you find the bacteria in your nose or throat, it is probably already pretty serious with the person in question [*]; such a person will not go for a corona test but straight into the hospital.

Figure 3 from the retraction paper

Another problem: some primers might stick partly on each other. This is theoretically undesirable, but does it cause problems in practice? If I read the following paragraph in the article by Corman and Drosten et al, it seems to me that they have tested this and ruled it out as a problem:

From the article by Corman et al, Eurosurveillance (2020)

Anyway, as has already been said, I am not an expert in this area. What I do think to understand is that all the issues that are raised come down to stating that the specificity of the Corman-Drosten test is not that great. That would imply that you would find a lot of false positives. However, that is not the case, see for example a blog by the earlier mentioned Mackay: The “false-positive PCR” problem is not a problem.
An important aspect of the ‘retraction report’ is the lack of any experimental evidence that would substantiate that the theoretical problems put forward actually do cause false positives in practice.

‘Unique fingerprint’ – Borgers creationism seeping through?

Also in the retraction report is Borger’s ‘find’ that SARS-CoV-2 is a weakened version of SARS-CoV. He wrote this down in an article in the American Journal of Biomedical Science & Research in the spring of this year. The title of the journal may sound impressive, but it turns out to be a predatory journal. Fun fact: around the same time as the journal published Borger’s article, they also accepted an article that was so obviously fake that it could not pass any serious peer review.

“Well, I have not heard anything yet, @MarionKoopmans. Nevertheless, I was the first to discover the two genetic fingerprints in SARS-CoV2 that also appear in SARS-CoV1 and which confirm that SARS = COVID.

Borger thinks he was the first to see that the RNA of the current coronavirus contains a series of codons (set of 3 base pairs encoding for a protein) almost identical to the corresponding series in the 2003 SARS virus, which would be unique. For Borger, it is the proof (together with his mistaken assumption that SARS and Covid-19 can both be treated well with chloroquine) that these are actually the same viruses and diseases. The current coronavirus would be a weakened variant of SARS-CoV, less lethal by now, but easier to spread.

In SARS-CoV the protein series is KTFPTEPKKDKKTDEAQ. Now such a series is somewhat variable anyway, the individual proteins can be coded by several codons, Lysine (K) for example by AAA and AAG. Borger quotes a Science article from 2003, which states that this series is unique for SARS-CoV. However, it is clear that this should be read as ‘we haven’t found it anywhere else’. Anyone who now searches the databases for that series will find that it has been found in coronaviruses of various bat species and also in civets. As a result, Borger’s story is already largely shattered, but there is also research that shows that the evolutionary developments that led to the two viruses from a common predecessor started to diverge quite a long time ago. Published in Nature, so we may attach a little more weight to that than to Borger’s publication in such a ‘you-pay-we-publish’ magazine.

I think Borger’s idea fitted a little too nicely into his version of creationism to let it pass. I’m not going to elaborate on this, but if the reader wants to know more about it, I can warmly recommend the extensive review by Bart Klink of Borger’s book Terug naar de oorsprong, of hoe de nieuwe biologie het tijdperk van Darwin beëindigt – translated as Darwin Revisited – which also deals with Borger’s view on RNA viruses. It is however in Dutch: De wetenschappelijke dwaalwegen van een creationistisch bioloog. (The scientific aberrations of a creationist biologist)

The list of signatories

I have already talked enough about Borger, but who are his 21 allies? The list ‘leaked out’ early. The website shouldn’t have been made public until Monday, but someone shared a link before, after which the website administrator and co-signer, 3D-artist Bobby Malhotra, hastily put a password on the pages. Just a little too late to prevent that someone stored it in web archives. When I shared screenshots of them, Malhotra even accused me of having photoshopped them and threatened to hack my computer in barely concealed terms. Such a fine gentleman.

Another person who was closely involved writing the report is Prof. Ulrike Kämmerer, who had already stirred controversy in Germany about the PCR test, but who, for example, also promotes nonsensical diets for cancer. Those who are mentioned more specifically as experts are Dr Michael Yeadon and Kevin McKernan. The first had an important job at Pfizer (and wrongly says that the pandemic is already over) and McKernan is someone who has been involved in the development of machines for DNA sequencing. He probably knows best of the club what he is talking about, but just like Borger and Malhotra, he is rather rude on Twitter against Koopmans and Drosten among others.

Then we have Thomas Binder, a Swiss cardiologist, who put himself in the limelight last year with conspiracy theories about the poison gas attack in Douma. About corona, he also maintains that there might be a connection between Covid-19 and 5G. Earlier this year he was arrested and put in a psychiatric institution for some time.

And among the Italian signatories, we find Dr. Stefano Scoglio. A homoeopath, with a PhD in philosophy, who believes he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine and is one of those types who continue to claim that the virus has never been isolated.

Please add your own findings on these guys or others from the list in the comments below. I think there is still plenty of interesting stuff to find out about them!

Conclusion

What do they actually intend to achieve with their criticism of the test? Why should it be withdrawn at all if the primers chosen are not optimal? After all, it has not been presented as the most optimal test, but as a test that was designed quickly, but could still be very useful at the beginning of the pandemic. And there are now other tests, with other primers.
They somehow suggest that all the measures taken to limit the spread of the coronavirus actually depend on this PCR test, the first to receive official scientific recognition and to be embraced by the WHO. If this piece of the machinery of the fight against coronavirus can be removed, all the grounds for these measures would disappear, they seem to think. That is nonsense, of course. The sick who have to be admitted do not suddenly have another disease without a PCR test. And without a PCR test, you would probably have to go into quarantine much more often and for much longer in the event of suspicion of infectivity. Because then we would again have to rely on virus cultures that do not work as well and certainly take much longer.

On Twitter, others (including Koopmans) have already voiced criticism, discussing all or parts of the ‘retraction paper’. And once again: with this post, I am not trying at all
to deal with that report exhaustively. There are others who are much more qualified than I am, for example, the editorial board of Eurosurveillance, which will probably formulate a firm response.


This is a rather quick and rough translation of the original article in Dutch on Kloptdatwel.nl
(Image: thiagolazarino |Pixabay)


[*] update 3 December 2020: perhaps I am putting this a little too strongly. There are studies that find the bacterium in the oral cavity and the tonsils of a small percentage of healthy people. However, the presence of the bacterium is not enough to turn this PCR test positive, more is needed. The person who suggested it as a possible design problem, McKernan, also indicated on Twitter that he does not really expect this to cause false positives. So it is more nitpicking about the design and that the authors did not discuss this hypothetical problem in the article.


Also read Frank Visser’s view on the matter in the 20th part of his serie The Corona Conspiracy: PCR-Gate: A Storm in a Petri Dish?


Update 4/2/2021: Eurosurveillance rejects the request for retraction. The response addresses the rapid peer review and states following the advice from five independent experts, that were consulted:

The consulted experts confirmed that the Corman et al. article was scientifically adequate for its purpose and for the limited data and material available at this early stage in the COVID-19 pandemic. Any laboratory deciding to use the primers and protocol suggested in this article would ascertain the assay for its fitness for purpose and compliance with local quality and accreditation requirements; this is what has happened worldwide since the publication of the article. With more data and evolving knowledge, laboratories have since further improved the initial method, as per usual practice.


Added on 9 February 2021
Two of the authors of the ‘retraction paper’, Kevin McKernan and Bobby Malhotra, gave very misleading information on the Corman-Drosten protocol to Naomi Wolf in an interview that she published on YouTube on 24 January 2021. Here some fragments with my commentary:

A far more detailed analysis can be found in Frank Visser’s most recent contribution part of his series titled ‘The Corona Conspiracy’: Part 24: PCR-Gate 2: When Lockdown Skeptics Pose as Expert Scientists.

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34 thoughts to “Some considerations on the retraction paper for the Corman-Drosten PCR test”

  1. Andreas Beyer, see earlier comments over here for backgrounds, has published a new essay about the Corman-Drosten review report, “Borger & Kämmerer, Corona & qPCR, Pseudoscience & Conspiracy Theory Revisited – an Analytical Essay -“, see https://www.researchgate.net/publication/351286220

    An excellent piece of work and highly recommended.

  2. Pepijn wrote: “Then we have Thomas Binder, a Swiss cardiologist, who put himself in the limelight last year with conspiracy theories about the poison gas attack in Douma. About corona, he also maintains that there might be a connection between Covid-19 and 5G. Earlier this year he was arrested and put in a psychiatric institution for some time.”

    I noticed today that the Twitter account of Thomas Binder was suspended. Snapshots of his tweeting history have been archived at https://web.archive.org/web/*/https://twitter.com/thomas_binder A recent example is https://web.archive.org/web/20210306045719/https://twitter.com/thomas_binder

  3. A blogpost by Andreas Beyer and Martin Neukamm at https://www.ag-evolutionsbiologie.net/html/2020/evolution-gehirn-har1f.html (in German) provides insight in the motives that Andreas Beyer has published “Pseudowissenschaftliche Kritik an einem von der Berliner Charité veröffentlichten Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)-Test, publiziert von Peter Borger und Koautoren / Pseudoscientific criticism on a Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) test published by Peter Borger and coauthors” (see my earlier comments).

    The blogpost is a debunk of a text of Pieter Borger at http://www.genesisnet.info/index.php?News=280 (“Das HAR1F-Gen stellt Evolution in Frage”, published in 2020). The conclusion of the debunk by Andreas Beyer and Martin Neukamm:

    “Das ist das notorische Problem der Evolutionskritik; ihre Verfechter multiplizieren und potenzieren in einer Art und Weise, dass darüber völlig die Voraussetzungen vergessen werden, unter denen ihre Schlüsse berechtigt wären. Ihre Berechnungen zur Unwahrscheinlichkeit der Evolution lassen sich treffend mit der bekannten Phrase aus der Informatik “Garbage in, Garbage out” (kurz: GIGO) charakterisieren. Der WORT-UND-WISSEN-Debütant Peter BORGER ist da keine rühmliche Ausnahme.”

  4. Pieter Borger has posted yesterday a comment at ResearchGate in which he admits that his co-author Jan Bonte was not allowed to use the title ‘Dr. med.’ / ‘Dr.’ Pieter Borger admits in the same comment that also co-author Berber Pieksma was not allowed to use the title ‘Dr.’. It can thus be concluded that the url http://www.cormandrostenreview.com/icsls/ has listed for a prolonged period of time (around 3 months?) incorrect information about the academic titles of Jan Bonte and Berber Pieksma (see https://web.archive.org/web/20210209000812/cormandrostenreview.com/icsls/ for an archived version). I fail to understand the rationale behind this acting of the experts of the ICSLS, the “International Consortium of Scientists in Life Sciences”.

    It can thus also be concluded that the Corman-Drosten review report (Borger et al. 2020) has been submitted to Eurosurveillance with erroneous information about the academic title of co-author Jan Bonte (see https://web.archive.org/web/20201128002522/http://www.cormandrostenreview.com/ for an archived version). I fail to understand why co-author Jan Bonte (“JB: Proofreading the analyses and research.”) did not locate this error while scrutinizing a draft of the Corman-Drosten review report.

  5. Marjolein Doesburg-van Kleffens (“Dr. Marjolein Doesburg-van Kleffens (MSc, PhD), specialist in Laboratory Medicine (clinical chemistry), Maasziekenhuis Pantein, Beugen, the Netherlands”) is one of the many co-authors of Borger et al. (2020).

    I noticed today that the url https://www.maasziekenhuispantein.nl/specialisten/m-doesburg-van-kleffens/69/ redirects to https://www.maasziekenhuispantein.nl and that the name Marjolein Doesburg-van Kleffens is not anymore listed at https://www.maasziekenhuispantein.nl/specialisten See
    https://web.archive.org/web/20200928223229/https://www.maasziekenhuispantein.nl/specialisten/m-doesburg-van-kleffens/69/ and https://web.archive.org/web/20201028174035/https://www.maasziekenhuispantein.nl/specialisten for archived copies.

    Does this imply that Marjolein Doesburg-van Kleffens is no longer employed by Maasziekenhuis Pantein?

    I recall an e-mail to me from Olga ten Wolde (spokesperson for Maasziekenhuis Pantein and dated 11 December 2020) in which it is stated:

    (i): “Mevrouw Doesburg-Van Kleffens is bij deze review betrokken vanuit haar onafhankelijke wetenschappelijke achtergrond en niet als werknemer van het Maasziekenhuis.”
    (ii): “Aangezien het geen publicatie van het Maasziekenhuis is en wij er niet bij betrokken zijn, kunnen wij er ook geen afstand van nemen.”
    (iii): “De affiliatie in de review is vermeld omdat dit vereist is bij een dergelijke publicatie.”
    (iv): “Wij hebben aan u gemeld dat het een review betreft en dat het niet het standpunt van het ziekenhuis is.”
    (v): “Als ziekenhuis volgen wij de inzichten van het RIVM en de overheid als het gaat om corona. Die aanpak is gebaseerd op adviezen van het OMT.”

  6. Stephen Bustin, Reinhold Mueller, Gregory Shipley & Tania Nolan have published on 28 February 2021 “COVID-19 and Diagnostic Testing for SARS-CoV-2 by RT-qPCR—Facts and Fallacies”, see https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/22/5/2459/htm (open access).

    “Abstract. Although molecular testing, and RT-qPCR in particular, has been an indispensable component in the scientific armoury targeting SARS-CoV-2, there are numerous falsehoods, misconceptions, assumptions and exaggerated expectations with regards to capability, performance and usefulness of the technology. It is essential that the true strengths and limitations, although publicised for at least twenty years, are restated in the context of the current COVID-19 epidemic. The main objective of this commentary is to address and help stop the unfounded and debilitating speculation
    surrounding its use.”

    Comments from the authors of Borger et al. (2020) on this recent article by Stephen Bustin et al. are highly appreciated.

  7. Pepjin is the same character who until a few years ago maintained an all-out war against homeopathy. I remember that around that time, people like him and others complained that one of Luc Montagnier’s articles was published in 3 days and he was then on the panel of the Interidsciplinary Computational Life Sciences. However, with the Corman et al paper, which was also accepted in 3 days, Pepjin has no problem accepting it. What is obvious, is that the “skeptic” movement is rotten and incites censorship of anyone who questions the dominant ideology, even if they do the very thing they criticize. Twitter should be proud of you.

    1. Homeopathy is one of the best examples of pseudoscience so it deserves to be countered with solid skepticism. I have no clue which article of Montagnier you have in mind. The fact that an article passes peer review in just a couple of days is on itself no reason to reject it, but if it contains claims that are really extraordinary and not that well supported with evidence, you might start to wonder whether the peer review was any good.

      If you read the reply of Eurosurveillance you must have seen that the peer review for the Corman-Dorsten paper was well prepared, and the science in the article is quite standard actually. So I don’t see the apparent short time for peer review should be regarded a red flag here.

      BTW why are you using two different email addresses and IP numbers to place the same comment?

  8. There is a follow-up at ResearchGate on a comment by Pieter Borger on “Pseudowissenschaftliche Kritik an einem von der Berliner Charité veröffentlichten Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)-Test, publiziert von Peter Borger und Koautoren / Pseudoscientific criticism on a Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) test published by Peter Borger and coauthors”, a report by Andreas Beyer at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/348732878 (see also my postings of 5 and 9 February 2021).

    Andreas Beyer posted on 11 February 2021 the following response:

    “Borger’s comment (“Meyer’s report is interesting, but it does not address our critiques”) does not refer to this publication of mine since (1) I’m not Meyer and (b) I have rebutted the ten alleged flaws point by point. So I don’t know why these comments ended up here – they should be transmitted to Meyer’s page. Anyway, now it’s here so I might comment thereon myself.

    Borger wrote “We need real science and real scientists to solve problems and to inform the public in an honest way. We certainly do not need pseudoscience, scientism and dogmas to spread fear and confusion. Scientists, politicians and journalists take your responsibilities!”

    I completely agree: Scientists are the ones to make science – and moreover especially those who are competent in the respective field. I am a scientist, however, only in a narrow field of research – surely not in physics, geology, taxonomy, nephrology. Likewise, the authors of the Borger text are laypeople both in the field of corona research as well as in qPCR, as all the mistakes, errors and flaws analysed in my paper show. Among them a 3D-artist, managers, a practitioner … seriously?? There is only one virologist in this group who, however, has never worked with corona and obviously also not in the field of qPCR.

    Borger wrote “Perhaps he –or Van Dijk– are willing to explain to us how science is able to progress when there is no exchange of criticism possible?”

    This is a nice example of a straw man argument https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man : Where did anyone refuse criticism?!? I understand that the Borger team does not like my analysis. But I’d like to put the question just the other way around: How could science proceed when it is not allowed to debunk pseudoscience?

    [Borger wrote] “Why is it not allowed to express scientific concerns when a paper contains flaws”

    Good question! Exactly this is what I do with the Borger text.

    [Borger wrote] “when authors have not mentioned conflicts of interest,”

    untrue … read my publication, please.

    [Borger wrote] “when a paper has not been peer-reviewed?”

    untrue … read my publication, please. Ignorance does not help. And, by the way, read https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2021.26.5.2102041

    [Borger wrote] “Please explain to us how science can be done without criticism from peers?”

    Science does ONLY work with criticism from peers – my publication is an example. And it is damaged by psedoscience, the Borger text is an example. Simply fread my analysis.

    [Borger wrote] “Science should always be scrutinised by other scientists.”

    Yes, absolutely. And exactly for this reason the Borger text is condemnable.

    Cheers Andreas Beyer”

    Pieter Borger posted on 26 February 2021 the following response at ResearchGate:

    “Two weeks ago we wrote a complete refutation of Beyer’s paper above. It can be found here: https://cormandrostenreview.com/refutationofandreasbeyer/ We also asked Dr. Beyer to distribute our refutation to his network to which he distributed his own critique. As far as we know, he did not do that. Dear Dr Beyer, science is not a one way street. It is in a constant state of flux. Observation-thesis-refutation-adaptation. That is the only way science can make progress. Could you therefore please inform your network that we have overthrown your arguments. Thanks. Best regards, Dr. P. Borger”

    Andreas Beyer posted on the same day the following response on ResearchGate:

    “Sorry, but in contrast to you I am paid for REAL science: Lectures and tutorials, right now there are 80 written examinations to be marked, and in March 100 more, 5 days of practical courses right in between, thesis defence seminars, I have two research projects running in my Lab with two Bachelor candidates under my personal supervision plus some more in external Labs. In March, our re-accreditation goes into its final phase. Not to forget applications to be written. REAL work and REAL science, you see? Besides this, my analysis is sound – and I won’t jump over every stick you’re holding in front of me. But be sure I will come back to that piece of pseudoscience (and inform “my network”) when I’ve got the time for it. And now I must return to work, sorry. Sincerely Andreas Beyer”

    See http://www.integralworld.net/visser198.html for more backgrounds about the report of Andreas Beyer.

  9. A tweet on 10 February 2021 by Bobby Rajesh Malhotra reveals details about the review of 1 of the 5 peer-reviewers of Borger et al. (2020). Bobby Rajesh Malhotra refers in this tweet to a recent interview of Eric Coppolino with Stephen Bustin, 1 of the 5 reviewers of Borger et al. (2020).

    Stephen Bustin states in this interview: “I can say to you that that is a disgraceful piece of work, that whole thing. There’s no truth in.. yeah. Let’s leave it at that.” [transcripted]

    Source: https://twitter.com/Bobby_Network/status/1359496254976372741

    Information at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Bustin reveals towards my opinion that Bustin is very well qualified to conduct a thorough review of Borger et al. (2020). It also seems to me that this verdict is fully in line with the verdicts of all other experts.

    Pieter Borger does not refer to this information in a thread of today at Twitter:

    “Two days ago, I kindly asked @Eurosurveillanc to provide the point-by-point replies of the 5 experts who supposedly had peer-reviewed our critique on the Corman-Drosten paper. We had submitted our paper as a review and as such we expect to receive independent review reports of at least 2 or 3 independent reviewer. This would be the normal procedure for a science journal. Not for Eurosurveillance, who earlier wrote me our paper would go through a fair peer review process.

    They now write: “Thank you for your mail. The group of five experts thoroughly assessed your manuscript and provided a clear verdict on which the decision to reject your submission is based. This includes numerous points listed as per the email from our submission system for your consideration.”

    That is all. It is clear that there are no peer-review reports of the 5 experts. It is clear that @Eurosurveillanc never had the intention to peer review our paper in an unbiased scientific way. They asked us to provide peer-reviewers, we did, but none of them was approached. Now they found 5 poeple “with a clear verdict”. A clear verdict! Is this a joke? @Eurosurveillanc is unable to show us the peer reviewer’s reports of the 5 experts! In october 2020, I asked them for the peer review report of the Corman-Drosten paper. They couldn’t! Now, I asked them to provide the peer-review reports of the 5 experts “with a clear verdict” and…they could NOT!

    @Eurosurveillanc is not a science journal, it is a political journal. Free science from politics and politicians. @c_drosten @MarionKoopmans @rivm”

    Source: https://twitter.com/BorgerPieter/status/1359747050406035457

    People might wonder why Pieter Borger does not refer in this thread to the above listed details in a recent tweet of his co-author Bobby Rajesh Malhotra.

  10. Pieter Borger has posted a response at ResearchGate on “Pseudowissenschaftliche Kritik an einem von der Berliner Charité veröffentlichten Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)-Test, publiziert von Peter Borger und Koautoren / Pseudoscientific criticism on a Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) test published by Peter Borger and coauthors”. This criticism is a report of Andreas Beyer and it is published at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/348732878 (see also my posting of 5 February 2021).

    The response by Pieter Borger is listed below:

    “Meyer’s report is interesting, but it does not address our critiques, neither the additional (20+) peer reviewed scientific papers with similar concerns about the Corman-Drosten paper https://cormandrostenreview.com/addendum/

    Meyer, but also Klaas van Dijk (above), seems to have lost the sense of science and the scientific method. Perhaps he –or Van Dijk– are willing to explain to us how science is able to progress when there is no exchange of criticism possible? Why is it not allowed to express scientific concerns when a paper contains flaws, when authors have not mentioned conflicts of interest, when a paper has not been peer-reviewed? Please explain to us how science can be done without criticism from peers?

    As a scientist, I find the attitude of Meyer and Van Dijk very worrying. Science should always be scrutinised by other scientists. This is the only way we can keep trust in science. There must always be a critical dialogue otherwise science becomes political and dogmatic. Do we want to have “free and reliable science” or do we want “political and pseudoscience”? This question should be asked by every scientist who takes him/herself seriously.

    Science never sits still and is always under scrutiny. That is why we, ICSLS, are in the process of making progress: https://zenodo.org/record/4459271

    Best Regards, Pieter Borger ICSLS https://cormandrostenreview.com/

    It seems to me that this response (written on behalf of all 22 authors of Borger et al. 2020?) does not address the concerns listed by Andreas Beyer.

    See https://twitter.com/JohnTal6/status/1358799258871283713 for other queries to Pieter Borger and his co-authors.

  11. A tweet of 5 February 2021 by Kevin McKernan, 1 of the 22 authors of the Corman-Drosten review report, reveals that the Twitter account of Yardley Yeadon, 1 of the other authors of this review report, does not exist anymore / is blocked. Source: https://twitter.com/Kevin_McKernan/status/1357824361252675585 This tweet by Kevin McKernan indicates that Yardley Yeadon had violated the Twitter rules and that the disappearance of this account was forced by Twitter. Snapshots are archived at https://web.archive.org/web/*/https://twitter.com/michaelyeadon3

  12. Issue 5 of Volume 26 of the journal Eurosurveillance was published on 4 February 2021. This issue contains a response on Borger et al. (2020) and a correction on Corman et al. (2020).

    The correction refers to a typo: “In the article ‘Detection of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) by real-time RT-PCR’ by Corman et al. published on 23 January 2020, nM (nanomolar) was misspelled as nm in the second half of Table 1. This mistake was corrected on 4 February 2021. We apologise for any inconvenience this typo may have caused.”. See https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2021.26.5.210204e

    The “Response to retraction request and allegations of misconduct and scientific flaws” is published at https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2021.26.5.2102041 The editors of Eurosurveillance conclude in this response:

    “The detailed allegations with respect to scientific flaws in the Corman et al. article were reviewed by a group of five laboratory experts. These comments were made available to the Eurosurveillance associate editors, except for those who were co-authors of the paper.

    The consulted experts confirmed that the Corman et al. article was scientifically adequate for its purpose and for the limited data and material available at this early stage in the COVID-19 pandemic. Any laboratory deciding to use the primers and protocol suggested in this article would ascertain the assay for its fitness for purpose and compliance with local quality and accreditation requirements; this is what has happened worldwide since the publication of the article. With more data and evolving knowledge, laboratories have since further improved the initial method, as per usual practice.

    In conclusion, after a thorough investigation in which we collected scientific advice from various sources, including several external reviewers, the editorial team—unanimously supported by its associate editors, except for those who were involved as co-authors—has decided that the criteria for a retraction of the article have not been fulfilled.”

    —————————–

    Prof. Dr. Andreas Beyer of the Westfälische Hochschule Gelsenkirchen, Bocholt, Recklinghausen, has posted on 23 January 2021 a detailed and lengthy rebuttal of Borger et al. (2020) at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/348732878

    Beyer concludes: “Insgesamt kann man bei dieser Publikation bestenfalls von Pseudowissenschaft -wenn nicht von Verschwörungstheorie und Verleumdung – sprechen. // In all, this “peer review” is at best pseudoscience – if not conspiracy theory and slander.”

    Beyer also noted: “Letztlich gab ich den Autoren eine Woche Zeit, sich zu dieser Analyse zu äußern. Sie schwiegen. // Last, Borger et al. were given the chance to comment on my arguments and to defend themselves. They kept silent.”

    That’s towards my opinion a very unfortunate situation for Maasziekenhuis Pantein, a Dutch hospital of which its labhead, Marjolein Doesburg-van Kleffens, belongs to one of the many authors of Borger et al. (2020).

  13. I am not a medical scientist so i will refrain from making technical comments about the Drosten Corman paper or the challenge to it by the team of scientists. However all of you attacking the scientists asking for the retraction seem to gloss over the highly unusual speed – 24 hours(!) – between submission and publication time of the paper by Eurosurveilance. And the equally lightning fast speed from its publication to when the WHO endorsed it as the standard test to be used for mass testing for covid.
    One would think that considering the important role the PRC test would be playing during the pandemic there might have been the normal peer review process before publishing? Or that the WHO might have the Drosten Corman paper analyzed by experts before endorsing the PCR test to be used by countries around the world.
    The “wham bam thank you mame” rocket speed with which it was all done from submission to WHO endorsement and with little or no review seems suspicious.
    Who funded the research behind the Drosten Corman PCR paper? Who has funded previous research by Drosten and Corman? And who funds Eurosurveilance ?
    We know Big Pharma has its dollar thumb on the WHO as shown by the WHO letting consultants from pharma drug industry redraft the WHO definition of “pandemic” in 2009 mere weeks before the outbreak of H1N1 with the result that H1N1was able to qualify as a pandemic which it would not have by the previous WHO pandemic criteria. By having H1N1 qualify as a pandemic Big Pharma made 3/4 trillion dollars from H1N1 vaccine shots – the vast majority never being used and earning the WHO a damming Council of Europe
    investigation.
    Follow the money trail as it would not surprise me at all if that the hyper accelerated timeline from paper submission to WHO endorsement was lubricated by Big Pharma dollars. It is just what Big Pharma does – and does very well too.

    1. Answers to all the questions you ask can be found with a few mouseclicks. The peer review process for the Corman Drosten paper was streamlined, the article was announced, reviewers were asked to be ready so that there would be no delays. All understandable to get the maximal profit from this test which could be essential in getting a grip on the spread of the new virus as early as possible. Also, everybody is allowed to use this primer set without paying license fees or something like that.

  14. One of the authors of the review of Borger et al. (2020) is Marjolein Doesburg-van Kleffens. The section “Author’s Affiliations” reveals that Doesburg-van Kleffens has used “Maasziekenhuis Pantein, Beugen, the Netherlands” as affiliation for this review. The review does not contain information that one or more of the authors and/or one or more of their institutes (affiliations) do not agree with any of the findings in Borger at al. (2020). This implies that the Maasziekenhuis Pantein endorses all the views about the PRC test which are listed in Borger et al. (2020). That’s towards my opinion a highly remarkable point of view for this hospital. See https://www.maasziekenhuispantein.nl/ for backgrounds about this hospital (only in Dutch).

  15. This getting a bit silly. As I wrote in my post, only a couple of the signees can boast some or expert knowledge of PCR (at least McKernan and Borger). One of them, Bonte, openly admits he didn’t contribute a single character to the report and fully relies on Borger for the PCR stuff.

    A: I did say ‘some’ of their backgrounds…. About J. Bonte, I agree if he hasn’t contributed, he shouldn’t be on the list.

    When you write that Drosten as faked his credentials and even that he isn’t a professor, you are totally out of line. You’ve fallen for the defamatory tricks of his opponents. How you can even think that he fakes being a professor while he is listed as such by his employer is beyond my understanding.

    A: I cannot tell you too much now.

    That Borger challenges Koopmans for a debate shouldn’t surprise, that’s common trich for creationists. If one accepts they will shout that scientists take them seriously (not as a threat to common sense though) and that their fantasies thus equal science.

    A: Emotional response, irrelevant what you ‘think’ would happen. With crucial debates like these, rules should be established to control the debate pure scientifically. I can almost feel your hidden frustration typing the sentences.

    If my opinion on this ‘retraction paper’ hasn’t become clear from this post, then let me state that to me it is utterly unconvincing. The authors might have pointed out some theoretical issues, a better PCR-test is conceivable (and in use!), but they failed to show that these potential problems do cause problems in practice as they have not shown any experimental evidence. So, to call these potential issues ‘major scientific flaws’ is laughable.

    A: Still nothing of value to be this convinced, especially as a science writer. But I understand your position.

  16. Ad Hominem, wait for the results and draw your conclusion then. Unprofessional article to say the least.

    1. It’s not Ad Hominem in the sense of a logical fallacy. The authors of the ‘retraction paper’ portray themselves as experts, so it is more than fair to check their backgrounds to see whether that claim makes sense.

      1. Well I have tracked some of their backgrounds, these are not men/women that are poorly established. On the technical basis, they outweigh M. Koopmans en C. Drosten, this is not a argument from authority. C. Drosten has been caught faking his credentials, his isn’t a Prof. (will be used against him in a lawsuit). P. Borger, has also made a formal request, challenging M. Koopmans to a professional/open debate regarding PCR. Now that to me shows competence and confidence, that is what science is all about.

        Your previous message: “(often using inappropriate language)?”
        Well I have been following the bunch of you, both sides use inappropriate language, let’s not point fingers. I understand the matter is important and emotion can’t be dismissed. But seeing your style of critique; which is based on emotion rather than objective rationality, is the reason I’m critiquing ‘you’ in the first pace. Since you’re main articles contain science, keep it at science.

        What is your personal statement on the RT-paper anyway? Do you claim that a team of scientists falsely found 10 methodological errors and all of them are wrong? For what? They are taking it up against powerful institutions, this isn’t a dance for fame. The authors of the Corman/Drosten-paper haven’t made a single definitive argument. Which does raise some eyebrows don’t you agree Pepijn? Please enlighten me.

        1. This getting a bit silly. As I wrote in my post, only a couple of the signees can boast some or expert knowledge of PCR (at least McKernan and Borger). One of them, Bonte, openly admits he didn’t contribute a single character to the report and fully relies on Borger for the PCR stuff.

          When you write that Drosten as faked his credentials and even that he isn’t a professor, you are totally out of line. You’ve fallen for the defamatory tricks of his opponents. How you can even think that he fakes being a professor while he is listed as such by his employer is beyond my understanding.

          That Borger challenges Koopmans for a debate shouldn’t surprise, that’s common trich for creationists. If one accepts they will shout that scientists take them seriously (not as a threat to common sense though) and that their fantasies thus equal science.

          If my opinion on this ‘retraction paper’ hasn’t become clear from this post, then let me state that to me it is utterly unconvincing. The authors might have pointed out some theoretical issues, a better PCR-test is conceivable (and in use!), but they failed to show that these potential problems do cause problems in practice as they have not shown any experimental evidence. So, to call these potential issues ‘major scientific flaws’ is laughable.

  17. So all is well with the PCR test? Also a strange conclusion that would be: Ct hardly worth mentioning? Gross manipulation to get to these vaccines does not exist? Just follow what happened in Sweden and we can see all is just like any other corono-viruses albeit a bit more serious for some. Even the CDC wrote that only 6% die of COVID-19 alone and the rest is old with, on average, 2.6 co-morbidities. Deaths overall for the year are no different. No lockdowns meant the situation would have been like Sweden: now near zero deaths for months, while the rest has to suffer this vaccine drive and economic collapse far worse than this flu-like illness.
    Authors and medics are often bought, but not Borger or Yeadon (experts is written in brackets as if this author here is the real one (yeah, like the fact checkers paid by Bill Gates). Cui bono, who profits, is what matters.

    1. This particular PCR-test is just what it is, a remarkably well-performing test considering the haste in which it was developed and the lack of actual SARS-CoV-2 samples to test it against at the time. There are now numerous other primer sets in use, some of which perform better than the ones originally proposed int the Corman-Drosten paper.

      The rest of your comments I consider off-topic on this post, so I will not address the issues you raise there.

      1. Greetings and thanks for the very interesting article.
        I need to say that while reading the Borger review, most of the thoughts I had were very similar to yours.

        Upon researching the other 21 signees I was delighted to find Fabio Franchi, a fellow Italian. He is an anti-vaxxer and Covid negationist which frequently ends up in the news for controversies.

        Anyways, I wanted to ask if you had any documentation on the new primer sets in use and any proof of their better performance. Currently debating it with a friend but I can’t seem to find any hard evidence of it.

        Happy new year and best regards!

        1. I do not know which primer sets are commonly in use at the moment. There are now many commercial kits and I don’t if there is something like a registry for the primers that those use. I think the WHO only mentions the original Charité primers and several others like the ones used in China and the ones developed by CDC.

  18. This article hasn’t said anything, instead of criticizing the researchers in question regarding the RT-paper, I would suggest you stay objective in this matter. The reason being that Euro Surveillance hasn’t made an official statement; RT-paper.

    M. Koopmans, stated publicly on radio that the PCR was not able to detect viral infection nor
    contagiousness. C. Drosten hasn’t made any rational argument either, he played Ad Hominem, by stating “Terrible. The authors’ expertise is like that of a second month piano student criticizing a concert pianist for using black keys. This cannot continue like this”. This hasn’t to do anything with science and is disrespectful by nature. Drosten sounds as a man that is under stress, which is questionable.

    1. Don’t you think it is a bit strange to suggest that we should all wait what the journal has to say about this ‘retraction paper’ while the authors constantly challenge the authors of the Carman-Drosten paper to comment on it via Social Media (often using inappropriate language)?

      On the radio, Koopmans didn’t tell anything that isn’t already widely known amongst people who took the effort to look into how PCR works and what you can do with it. It can detect viral infection, you are just not 100% whether it is still an active infection or whether you see just the remnants of a recent infection. And the question of contagiousness poses somewhat of an extra problem on top of that. Nothing new here.
      And for Drosten, you’re now just cherry-picking one tweet. He’s been informing the public since the beginning of this crisis and doing more research on PCR-tests which Borger cum suis totally ignore.

  19. From Eurosurveillance:

    We have recently received correspondence regarding a paper published this year, questioning both the content and the editorial procedures used to evaluate the article prior to publication. We can assure our readers and authors that we take comments relating to scientific content, the processing of articles and editorial transparency seriously.

  20. He wrote this down in an article in the American Journal of Biomedical Science & Research in the spring of this year. The title of the journal may sound impressive, but it turns out to be a predatory journal.

    This illustrates the important point that the customers of predatory journals are not just (a) gullible researchers who believe the spam invitations they receive, and submit their genuine papers, and (b) bad researchers who submit junk papers because they need to pump up their CVs. There are also (c) malicious denialists, promoting a political agenda, stove-piping their press-releases through journals that they know are predatory in order to have them taken seriously by the media.

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