MLB Employees to Participate in 10,000-Person Coronavirus Antibody Study

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIApril 14, 2020

BRONX, NEW YORK - MARCH 26:  A father and son walk past a closed Yankee Stadium on the scheduled date for Opening Day March 26, 2020 in the Bronx, New York. Major League Baseball has postponed the start of its season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently said the league is
Al Bello/Getty Images

Major League Baseball's players and team employees will participate in a widespread study that is looking to test more than 10,000 individuals for COVID-19 antibodies, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan

Stanford University, USC and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory are conducting the study, which Passan notes, is unlikely to speed up the process of MLB ending its hiatus on team activities:

"The goal of the study is to get a better sense of the virus' true infection rate by utilizing a nationwide sample. The speed with which MLB coordinated logistics and ensured participation from a wide range of people, including players, front-office staff, concession workers and others, made it the right choice for the study, according to doctors running it." 

Minor leaguers in the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox organizations had previously tested positive for the coronavirus after the league officially suspended the season on March 12. 

A previous confirmed positive test is not required since the study will be able to detect the antibodies created in those who have contracted the pathogen, whether they showed symptoms or not. 

None of the test kits involved in the study will take away from "frontline" testing or decrease the ability for those who are most vulnerable to get tested, according to the president of SMRTL, Dr. Daniel Eichner.

"This is the first study of national scope where we're going to get a read on a large number of communities throughout the United States to understand how extensive the spread of the virus has been," said Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University who will assess the data gathered this week and write a peer-reviewed paper he hopes to publish as early as next week told Passan. "This will be the very first of those. Why MLB versus other employers? I've reached out to others, but MLB moved by far the fastest. They've been enormously cooperative and flexible. We're trying to set up a scientific study that would normally take years to set up, and it's going to be a matter of weeks."

The study is being funded by private donors and 27 teams have volunteered to take part, according to Molly Knight of The Athletic, who confirmed with the MLB Players Association that those opting into the study will have confidentiality and their names will not be present on their samples.

Participation remains entirely voluntary on an individual basis.

"MLB did not partner with us for any selfish reason to get their sport back sooner," Eichner told Passan. "They jumped in for public health policy. That was their intention and their only intention."