News Release 

New peer reviews of COVID-19 research highlight promising, warn of misleading studies

The MIT Press

Research News

CAMBRIDGE, MA - October 8 2020--The preprints selected for review in Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 (RR:C19), an open-access overlay journal published by the MIT Press, cover a wide range of subjects, with peer reviewers finding a study that higher levels of cytokines IL-6 and IL-10 are associated with increased severity of COVID-19 is particularly noteworthy and could be useful in clinical care.

And in the first published scholarly peer reviews of pre-print research from Li-Meng Yan, Shu Kang, Jie Guan, and Shanchang Hu--the so-called "Yan Report"--that claims to show that unusual features of the SARS-CoV-2 genome suggest sophisticated laboratory modification rather than natural evolution, reviewers Robert Gallo, Takahiko Koyama, Adam Lauring, and Marvin Reitz rate the study as misleading and write that the "manuscript does not demonstrate sufficient scientific evidence to support its claims."

Peer reviewers similarly flag as misleading new research that non-COVID-19 vaccinations are linked to decreased SARS-CoV-2 rates.

New peer reviews from RR:C19, in order of the evidence scale rating (strong, reliable, potentially informative, not informative, or misleading) as provided by each of the two reviewers:

    "IL-6 and IL-10 as predictors of disease severity in COVID 19 patients: results from meta-analysis and regression" by Sujan K Dhar, et al. Preprint | Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Strong / Reliable

    Summary: This preprint says that higher levels of cytokines IL-6 and IL-10 are associated with increased severity of COVID-19. Reviewer consensus suggests this well-conducted study provides scientific evidence of potential prognostic markers that could be useful in clinical care. Reviewers: You-Wen He and Tsvetelina Velikova

    "College campuses and COVID-19 mitigation: clinical and economic value" by Elena Losina, et al. Preprint | Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Strong / Potentially Informative

    Summary: This is a comprehensive model that covers a timely topic; however, the many estimations that went into the model, as well as the use of "contact-hours" as a key parameter, may make the conclusions subject to uncertainty. Reviewers: Kathy Leung and David Kim

    "Lipid droplets fuels SARS-CoV-2 replication and inflammatory response" by Suelen da Silva Gomes Dias, et al. Preprint | Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Reliable / Potentially Informative / Potentially Informative

    Summary: This study claims infection-mediated lipid droplet biogenesis contributes to SARS-CoV-2 replication while suppressing lipid droplet formation restricts infection. However, these are not fully substantiated by the data offered due to lack of proper controls. Reviewers: Ulrich Desselberger, KJ Helbig, Ebony Alice Monson, and Prasert Auewarakul

    "Serum Sphingosine-1-Phosphate as novel prognostic and predictive biomarker for COVID-19 severity and morbidity and its implications in clinical management" by Giovanni Marfia, et al. Preprint | Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Potentially Informative / Potentially Informative / Not Informative

    Summary: This potentially informative article with some methodological flaws suggests that serum Sphingosine-1-Phosphate (S1P) is associated with COVID-19 severity. Further research is needed to understand if serum S1P could be provided therapeutically to reduce COVID-19 severity. Reviewers: Yoh Takuwa, Hideru Obinata, and Markus Gräler

    "Exploratory analysis of immunization records highlights decreased SARS-CoV-2 rates in individuals with recent non-COVID-19 vaccinations" by Colin Pawlowski, et al. Preprint | Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Potentially Informative / Misleading

    Summary: While the findings from this study are intriguing, the potential for spurious association between vaccination and infection is substantial. There are limitations to the data and findings could be misleading. Reviewers: Andrew Wiese and Shaun Truelove

    "Unusual features of the SARS-CoV-2 genome suggesting sophisticated laboratory modification rather than natural evolution and delineation of its probable synthetic route" by Li-Meng Yan, et al. Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Misleading / Misleading / Misleading

    Summary: This manuscript does not demonstrate sufficient scientific evidence to support its claims. Claims are at times baseless and are not supported by the data and methods used. Decision-makers should consider the author's claims in this study misleading. Reviewers: Takahiko Koyama, Adam Lauring, Robert Gallo, and Marvin Reitz

RR:C19 is published by the MIT Press and the editorial offices are located at UC Berkeley, headed by editor-in-chief Stefano M. Bertozzi, Professor of Health Policy and Management and Dean Emeritus of the School of Public Health at University of California Berkeley. The journal is funded by a grant from the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation and hosted on PubPub, an open-source publishing platform from the Knowledge Futures Group.

To learn more about this project and its editorial board, or to sign up for future news and alerts, visit rapidreviewscovid19.mitpress.mit.edu.

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Media Contacts Jessica Pellien
Associate Director of Publicity
Fortier Public Relations
jessica@fortierpr.com

Kate Silverman Wilson
Community and Resource Development Associate
The MIT Press
kswilson@mit.edu

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