Why doesn’t the NEJM retract?

In contrast to what the NYT wrote and in contrast to what the SPIEGEL reiterates today – the NEJM letter form Munich wasn’t the first description of an asymptomatic patient – this was already published one week earlier on January 24, 2020.

…one asymptomatic child (aged 10 years) had radiological ground-glass lung opacities.

The wording of the letter was immediately criticized by Kai Kupferschmidt in Science

But now, it turns out that information was wrong. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German government’s public health agency, has written a letter to NEJM to set the record straight, even though it was not involved in the paper.

The NEJM tried to rescue the letter with an online supplement giving more details from another phone call to the Chinese lady, making clear that she already had symptoms taking acetaminophen. But also Drosten did not want to retract according to a transcript of the press conference.


Maybe it was a somewhat unclear situation if the index case could not be interviewed (which should have been done when writing a case report)… Clearly this wasn’t a dysfunctional social media discussion but a basic scientific question as the following RKI report in the Lancet corrected numerous details. Differences of the two reports

The NEJM Article missed patient #13 who accompanied index #0.
#0 had been well with no signs or symptoms of infection” was wrong already at time of submission.
#0 had no business meeting on 19th (also wrong according to the online supplement).
#1 symptoms on 23rd not 24th.
#2 symptoms on 25th not 24th, meeting also on 20th.
#3 symptoms on 25th not 26th, contacts with #1 only 24th.
#4 symptoms 24th not 26th, met #0 not #1.

And again the Rothe version 0:32 tells version of #1…