NBA Reportedly Supporting Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 Study on Antibody Blood Tests

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2020

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The NBA is supporting a study from the Mayo Clinic that uses serology testing to identify antibodies for the coronavirus, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Charania noted the purpose of the effort is "to better understand prevalence of coronavirus among players and staff and promote long-term efforts to develop vaccine."

The Mayo Clinic announced April 13 it was making its COVID-19 serology test more widely available. Dr. Elitza Theel, the director of Mayo Clinic's Infectious Diseases Serology Laboratory, explained the purpose of testing for antibodies:

"A positive serology result suggests the patient is less likely to get infected or re-infected compared with individuals who do not have any antibodies in their blood. However, we are continuing to learn about the level and duration of protective immunity, and we can't definitively say how long protective immunity may last."

In a subsequent Q&A session, Dr. Gregory Poland said that better understanding coronavirus antibody levels would help inform doctors as to the risk of a patient experiencing a re-exposure to the disease.

ABC News reported March 31 the NBA league office had contacted team physicians to suggest players who have successfully recovered from the coronavirus donate blood to the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.

Dr. Michael Joyner, an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic, explained why NBA players are especially suited to donate plasma.

"These are big men with blood volumes, and as a result have a lot of plasma volume," he said. "Frequently people who are physically trained also have an increase in their plasma volume from what you would expect from them just being regular-sized guys."

Charania reported March 31 that Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who had recovered from the coronavirus, was donating plasma to the endeavor.

marcus smart @smart_MS3

Corona Free as of two days ago. Cleared by Mass Dept of Health. Thanks for everyone’s thoughts and prayers and I’m doing the same for everyone that’s been effected by this. Stay safe and stay together- apart! Much love!

ESPN's Jeff Passan reported employees from MLB teams were taking part in a similar study of up to 10,000 people through Stanford University, USC and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory:

"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."

Passan clarified that MLB's participation was unlikely to have any bearing on when the league would be able to start the 2020 season.


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