COVID-19 Antibody Study By Anti-Doping Groups Suggests 7 Times More Carriers Than Confirmed Cases In U.S.

The 'novel coronavirus 2019- CoV' explained by the World Health Organisation: Photo courtesy - WHO

COVID-19 Antibody Study to help scientists better understand the prevalence of the virus and make recommendations for future safety measures.

Two major anti-doping groupsMajor League Baseball (MLB) and Stanford University working together on the first United States nationwide study for COVID-19 antibodies, have suggested that there are roughly seven times more antibody carriers than confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the US.

The findings could help scientists better understand the prevalence of the virus and make recommendations for future safety measures.

In a statement, the Partnership for Clean Competition (PCC) noted: “The study tested for COVID-19 antibodies in more than 5,000 employees of Major League Baseball and is a prime example of the way scientific and athletic organizations have pivoted to address the current crisis. Two major anti-doping entities—the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) in Salt Lake City and the Partnership for Clean Competition in Colorado Springs—worked together with researchers at Stanford University and employees throughout MLB to produce the results.

“The PCC funds more than 70% of the world’s anti-doping research; SMRTL processes anti-doping tests and is accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). However, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the PCC stepped in to provide more than $120,000 to purchase antibody tests for this study. SMRTL utilized their expertise to conduct the analysis of results with scientists at Stanford.”

The groups used their connections in the sports world to find one of the largest cohorts so far for an antibody study, partnering with MLB to collect samples from every corner of the United Staes.

The study asked MLB employees from the front office to the box office to participate in a rapid but reliable antibody test. Researchers found that MLB employees were less likely to have antibodies for the novel coronavirus than others in their communities, which they attribute to strict MLB policies on social distancing, hand washing, and compliance with stay-at-home orders.

This research provides one of the most comprehensive looks at antibody carriers to date. It includes more than 5,600 complete test records. Of the .7% of tests that returned positive for antibodies, 70% of those were from asymptomatic carriers. PCC Executive Director Michael Pearlmutter said:

“We felt called to act, and this is what we do. We help advance important science. We have great partners in the research community; we have great partners in the athletic world. It was just a matter of bringing everyone together to help fight the spread of COVID-19.”

He added: “To understand the importance of the study, you just have to look at how many people worked to make this happen so quickly. We especially want to give credit to the employees of Major League Baseball. A study like this would typically take months, but MLB employees responded in a way that allowed the data to be collected over just a few days. When you combine that with the efforts of Dr. Daniel Eichner, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, and their teams at SMRTL and Stanford, the result is high quality, impactful research.”

Daniel Eichner, the Executive Director of SMRTL, explained the findings:

“These are the types of studies that really lay the groundwork for understanding the prevalence of the virus. We all want to get back to normal. Getting a grasp on carriers can help us do that.”

The antibody study with MLB concludes a series of research projects funded by the PCC and conducted by SMRTL and its academic partners. These studies included prevalence testing of the general public at multiple sites in California along with the MLB tests.

The findings of the antibody study will be pre-published online in mid-May.

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  1. Dennis Brown

    There original work out of Santa Clara showed 50 to 80 times more carriers. So this was a bit disappointing for me to see.

    I know they did a study out of Los Angeles and I am curious to see what those numbers are.

    At that low of a rate it will take many years to reach herd immunity.

    • Rick Stanfield

      Dennis Brown there study used a specific population group. MLB employees would not be a true sampling of population.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Which is partly why experts are calling any talk of ‘herd immunity’ anything from ‘forlorn hope’ to ‘dangerous’.

    • Dennis Brown

      Rick Stanfield I agree. The doctor behind the study is pushing for widespread testing.

    • Rick Stanfield

      Dennis Brown I hope we can get more antibody testing. It will both give us better numbers for positives and potentially a source for treatment. As for the numbers, the other serology studies have all indicated much higher infection rates than this study. I think SW should have made some statement about the fact that while apparently randomized, it was of a designated population only of MLB employees. Even this study places mortality at about .8%.

  2. Flynn Burroughs

    EXACTLY. And antibody studies in NY (conducted by the state) have shown an even greater prevalence of COVID cases – asymptomatic and/or undiagnosed mild cases (see picture).

    From these studies one can deduce that both hospitalization & mortality rates that are being reported are GREATLY exaggerated.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      As with one of your other comments: “The number of COVID-19 deaths cannot be directly compared to the number of seasonal influenza deaths because they are calculated differently, researchers say in a report released today.
      Whereas COVID-19 death rates are determined from actual counts of people who have died, seasonal influenza death rates are estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) using population modeling algorithms, explains Jeremy Samuel Faust, MD, with Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Division of Health Policy and Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts.
      The CDC estimates that between 24,000 and 62,000 people died from influenza during the 2019–2020 season (through April 4). At the time of the analysis (as of April 28), COVID-19 deaths had reached 65,000 in the United States. By May 20, the numbers of deaths in the United States due to COVID-19 was 94,941.
      Some government officials and others have said the numbers seem similar and have used the comparison as an argument for reopening certain areas.
      But making that comparison “is extremely dangerous,” Faust told Medscape Medical News.
      “COVID-19 is far more dangerous and is wreaking far more havoc than seasonal influenza ever has,” he said.

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