The authors posted the paper on a medical scholarly website on March 16 as a “preprint,” which means the work hadn’t yet run the gauntlet of review by independent scientists, a standard for publication in scientific journals. On March 17, the authors submitted it to the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, which accepted it the next day and published it online on March 20. “That suggests that peer review was done in 24h, an incredibly fast time,” wrote Elisabeth Bik, a Dutch microbiologist, in the medical blog Science Integrity Digest.
Shortly after publication, scientists who read the paper began to point out flaws in the research that cast doubt on the study. On March 24, Bik published a long list. There were inconsistencies in the way the authors collected and reported data—they say, for instance, the paper was conducted over 14 days but only provide six days of data. She scrutinized the chronology of the study itself and questioned whether the authors had started their research before obtaining approval from the French National Agency for Drug Safety, which would be an ethical lapse. She also said that the composition of the control group did not closely match the composition of the groups that received the drugs—differences that could possibly skew the results.