The pantheon of husband-wife teams in science includes Marie and Pierre Curie, Gerty and Carl Cori, even Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci, the founders of BioNTech, which collaborated with Pfizer on a Covid-19 vaccine.
To that list we hesitatingly add Ahmed Elkhouly and his spouse.
Elkhouly, a medical resident at St. Francis Medical Center, in Trenton, N.J., has lost five papers from the journal Cureus over a rather curious (ahem) domestic arrangement. According to the journal, Elkhouly used his unnamed wife as a peer reviewer on the articles, whose topics ranged from a case study on appendicitis to the neurological manifestations of COVID-19 infection.
Here's the retraction notice for the COVID paper — which, by the way, raises our tally of retracted papers on the pandemic to 89:
This article has been retracted based on the discovery that the submitting author, Dr. Ahmed Elkhouly, invited his wife to serve as a peer reviewer without properly disclosing this relationship. As this fraudulent peer review was completed and taken into consideration when determining whether to publish this article, Cureus has no choice but to retract this article due to this author misconduct and falsification of peer review.
An additional four articles submitted by Dr. Elkhouly have been retracted for the same reason. Cureus greatly regrets that these fraudulent peer reviews were not identified prior to publication. Dr. Elkhouly's residency program has been notified as is consistent with COPE guidelines.
Here's the list of retracted articles:
Elkhouly did not respond to a request for comment.
John Adler, MD, the editor in chief of Cureus, told us:
Our editors identified a peer reviewer invited by the submitting author of a submitted article, Ahmed Elkhouly, that raised questions as the reviewer had the same name and a very similar IP address. Upon reaching out to Dr. Elkhouly for an explanation, he admitted to inviting an older Cureus account of his as a reviewer so that his wife could peer review his articles. We do not know if his wife is a physician or scientist.
Further investigation revealed a pattern of misconduct by Dr. Elkhouly, as the same fraudulent reviewer reviewed five already published articles. It's not clear exactly whether it was Dr. Elkhouly or his wife who reviewed the articles using this account, but either way we immediately contacted the Internal Medicine residency leadership at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey with this information. After discussing the matter with the residency director and department chair (who confronted Dr. Elkhouly and confirmed the misconduct), the decision was made to retract all five articles.
Obviously, we deeply regret not identifying this fraudulent peer review prior to publication of these five articles.
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