A wide range of test subjects – from general managers to hot dog vendors – will undergo a rapid antibody test
When a massive study – designed to gauge the prevalence of the coronavirus across communities – needed 10,000 volunteers, Major League Baseball employees stepped up to the plate.
The league announced 27 teams volunteered to undergo rapid antibody tests that will detect whether a person has been exposed to the pathogen that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.
Antibodies are part of the immune system’s defense against viruses, bacteria and other disease-causing microbes. The presence of antibodies against the coronavirus, as seen in test results, suggests the person may have encountered the COVID-19 pathogen but possibly developed immunity against it. This may also explain why some people do not display symptoms.
While the test kits to be used are different from the ones that diagnose COVID-19 in patients, the antibody testing on MLB employees is crucial to measuring just how widespread the virus has gone and understanding further the potential for sustained local transmission.
All it takes for the subject is one prick on a finger – and the blood test yields results within minutes.
Overall, the findings of the study may eventually serve as a guide for local officials in deciding whether to lift community restrictions against the COVID-19 outbreak.
A diverse sample
The study involves a wide array of test subjects. “All the way from general managers to hot dog vendors,” Dr. Daniel Eichner, one of the researchers, told NPR.
Dr. Eichner and his colleagues from Stanford University and the University of Southern California needed a sample that was diverse enough to represent different ages and geographies, and could be readily collected. Thus, they turned to MLB, whose employee population covers a wide base.
Test subjects and consulting physicians taking part in the research have received written guidance on what steps to take after the results are out, especially if a subject is positive for COVID-19 antibodies, an official of the league told NPR.