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Major League Baseball facilitates largest US coronavirus antibody study to help determine scope of COVID-19

'This is going to be unbelievable for public health policy'

The "Teammates" statues of former Boston Red Sox players Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio wear makeshift masks made of Red Sox merchandise on April 9 at Fenway Park in Boston. (Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball is coordinating with researchers to facilitate the first large-scale coronavirus antibody study in the United States, which could be a significant first step in determining how widespread coronavirus has been and how much immunity exists in the population, according to ESPN.

What is an antibody study? Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory are working with Major League Baseball to test up to 10,000 people for the antibodies that are present in people who have previously had COVID-19.

The study should provide more information about how widespread the coronavirus has been among people who didn't get seriously sick or who were asymptomatic, and shed some light about what level of herd immunity exists.

"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," said Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, according to ESPN.

How did MLB get involved? Major League baseball is making players, employees, stadium workers, and other people available for the study, allowing for a diverse population of very public-facing people to be tested. The speed with which the MLB was able to put that sample together contributed to them being selected for the study.

"Why MLB versus other employers? I've reached out to others, but MLB moved by far the fastest," Bhattacharya told ESPN. "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."

What's next? The study will take place this week. The tests can be quickly turned around, with results within 10 minutes, so the data can be gathered quickly for Bhattacharya and the rest of the team to study and publish the results, possibly as early as next week.

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