Twenty-seven Major League Baseball teams will participate in a study looking for COVID-19 antibodies among club employees and their relatives, the league confirmed Tuesday.
The Athletic first reported that 10,000 volunteers will participate in the study, which will be conducted with the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory, Stanford University and the University of Southern California.
The study will measure the prevalence of COVID-19 among people across the United States by testing for a blood protein that the body creates in response to the infection. The tests, which are not the same as the ones used in health care settings, are not diagnostic and therefore do not look for active infections.
The Athletic, citing Stanford researcher Jay Bhattacharya, reported that players, families, team staff, concessionaires, ushers and other part-time employees of all ages, backgrounds and genders will participate.
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The MLB was approached for the study because it offers the researchers a geographically-diverse pool of volunteers spread out across the country, which should allow the study to get a good understanding of how the virus is affecting communities across the U.S.
"This will be the first time we will be able to see how truly prevalent COVID-19 has spread throughout the United States," Bhattacharya told The Athletic. “And instead of it taking years to pull together a study of this scope, especially with stay-at-home orders, MLB has helped us turn it around in a matter of weeks.”
Bhattacharya said the MLB responded "immediately" when asked to participate in the study, which will have no effect on the baseball's currently unknown return date.
Players and staff are already testing themselves at home, The Athletic said, in a simple test that has the league's employees prick themselves, put the blood on a testing strip, add a buffer solution, and wait ten minutes for their results.
The researchers hope to have all 10,000 results by the end of the week.
“To even begin to understand how far along we are in battling this virus, we need to know how many Americans have had it,” said Bhattacharya.