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Oversight Uncovered

Shortly after the University of Washington's Evan Eichler and his team's Nature Genetics paper came out, another group uncovered a statistical flaw in their analysis, Spectrum News reports.

"When we heard about this, we dropped everything," Eichler says. "I wish it had never happened; I wish we had caught that error; we appreciate the fact that they called it out."

Eichler's team reported that it had linked 91 genes, including 38 new ones, to autism or developmental delay.

But in an analysis posted to BioRxiv, researchers from the US, UK, and Australia point out that Eichler's team made a mistake that, when corrected, brings the number of new genes associated with autism or developmental delay down to one. The authors also contacted Nature Genetics.

Eichler and his team sequenced 208 genes that earlier work had linked to autism or developmental delay in a cohort of 11,730 cases. But instead of analyzing their two-stage study using a significance threshold established by the number of genes in the genome, they used a weaker one determined as if they were only looking at those 208 genes, inflating the significance of the genes, the analysis from the University of Queensland's Naomi Wray and colleagues says.

"We should have seen that when we went across the tables, and we just didn't …," Eichler tells Spectrum News. "It's a tough way to learn, but boy, do you learn."

Eichler says that he's waiting to hear from the journal but adds that he might update the findings on BioRxiv.