If MLB players can’t get on the field because of the coronavirus, perhaps they can help find a cure for the disease.  According to Jeff Passan from ESPN, MLB players, league employees and executive and even those individuals who work the stadiums are participating in a massive COVID-19 study that was put together to map the spread of the virus across the US.

It is apparently the largest antibody research study being conducted in the country, and encompasses a total of 10,000 people.

No Queasiness Allowed

The research is being led by Stanford University, along with the University of Southern California and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL).  Researchers are conducting thousands of pin pricks, taking blood samples to test the results.  The testing kits were made by Premier Biotech, and can reportedly provide results in as little as ten minutes.  This would be a huge improvement over the hours or days that have been needed with previous testing capabilities.

According to SU physician Jay Bhattacharya, who will be responsible for analyzing and publishing the data, “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.  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.”

Not All Teams Are In On The Study

A total of 27 MLB teams have agreed to participate in the study, but it isn’t totally clear which are the three holdouts.  The only two teams identified as not having been involved are the Chicago Cubs and the Toronto Blue Jays, according to a report by NBC Sports.

The Cubs didn’t join in because the team and its health crew couldn’t reach an agreement in time, and the Blue Jays were disqualified because the team is based in Canada, and not the US.  In time, the name of the third team should be revealed.

Just because MLB is in on the action doesn’t mean that the league will be able to get back on the field any sooner.  The researchers had contacted different leagues, and MLB was apparently the most receptive to the idea, answering the call before everyone else.  Daniel Eichner, the president of SMRTL added in a discussion with New York Times reporter James Wagner, “There’s nothing in it for the teams or MLB on this one.  This is purely to drive public health policy.”

After the blood is drawn and sent for testing, the samples are to be screened for two antibodies that have been found specifically in this version of the coronavirus.  IgM is an antibody that appears quickly in the blood after infection and the other antibody, IgG, hangs around in the blood stream for a long time after infection.  A positive hit for either of the two antibodies means an infection has occurred, even if no symptoms are seen.

Other Coronavirus-fighting Activity Still Taking Place

Eichner, who has had a very busy couple of weeks, also spent some time talking to Tom Goldman of NPR.  While some may be concerned that the test is taking away resources that could be used to combat the coronavirus, not just to conduct tests on determining infection, Eichner makes it clear that this isn’t the case.  He told Goldman, “I don’t want anyone getting confused that we’re taking these test kits away from front-line workers because we aren’t.  These [antibody tests] are not used for diagnosis.”