ATLANTA, GA — If they can’t play ball, they can at least play guinea pig.
The Atlanta Braves will be among Major League Baseball teams whose players and employees will be tested for coronavirus antibodies as part of a major study, according to ESPN. The test, which will draw blood through a pinprick, is expected to cover up to 10,00 people and should give scientists a better idea of how widespread the disease is in major cities.
The details of the Braves’ participation is not yet known. The team declined comment, according to Atlanta TV station 11Alive.
The study is being conducted by Stanford University, USC and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory. Tests will detect IgM, an antibody produced early in those with COVID-19, and IgG, another form of antibody that lingers longer after infection. A positive test confirms that a person had contracted coronavirus, whether or not he or she showed symptoms.
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ESPN reported Wednesday that doctors chose MLB teams because of how quickly they could coordinate logistics and the participation of a nationwide range of people, including everyone from players to concession workers.
The study will not necessarily speed the return of professional baseball, said Dr. Daniel Eichner of SMRTL, whose lab has worked extensively with various leagues to test for doping.
“These tests are absolutely not getting redirected from any kind of front-line testing programs,” Eichner said. “This is going to be unbelievable for public health policy, and sport is giving back. Baseball gets nothing out of this other than to test-drive public health policy.”
Researchers will gather test results Wednesday and Thursday, with some tests already having been taken by team employees. Participants also are asked for gender, age, ZIP code and other information about social activity that might help trace the spread of the coronavirus. The data will be included in a paper to be published for peer review by Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford, possibly as early as next week.
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