MLB employees to participate in COVID-19 antibody study

April 16, 2020

About 10,000 employees from 27 of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams are being tested to detect whether they already have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

The test is being coordinated by three major organizations that wanted to help combat COVID-19:

So they teamed up—and the result will be the most thorough COVID-19 antibody study in the United States, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The data will enable researchers to “know how far along we are in the epidemic and how dangerous getting the virus actually is,” Dr. Bhattacharya told the news outlet.

Public health experts and authorities are eager for the rollout of these blood tests, also called serology tests, to better understand who has already been infected with the novel coronavirus and how far the virus has spread. The tests look for specific antibodies in a person’s blood, which develop after a person has been infected.

The antibody tests are different from the diagnostic tests being used to determine whether a patient actively has the virus in his or her system and are not redirected from front-line testing programs.

The doctors involved said that a study of this nature typically would take a year or more to complete. With MLB’s help, the process is already near its conclusion after about a month of operation. Pinprick blood tests, to be self-administered by employees at their homes, generate a result within 10 minutes and should be completed by the end of the week. Dr. Bhattacharya said he plans to write a paper over the weekend and send it out for peer review.

“If you don’t know how far along the disease is we can’t do good forecasts,” Dr. Bhattacharya said. “If we can’t do forecasts we can’t understand when it’s safe to open up the economy.”

The researchers are quick to point out that this study will not necessarily allow MLB to resume its season any faster. “As best as I can tell, they’re not in this just to help their athletes,” Dr. Bhattacharya said. “They want to do public health good.”

Research contact: @WSJ