Monoclonal antibody infusion available at UVA Health for COVID-19 patients

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 6:24 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The University of Virginia Health System is now offering monoclonal antibody infusions to prevent those with COVID-19 from developing severe symptoms, not only helping to save lives, but also relieve a burden on healthcare workers.

Doctor Debbie-Ann Shirley, the medical director of UVA Health’s COVID-19 Clinic, said the antibody infusion prevents the virus replicating and spreading, helping minimize the likelihood of severe symptom development.

“They almost have the shape of a ‘Y’ and they are able to bind onto the virus, in this case the SARS-CoV2 virus, and neutralize it so that it doesn’t have the ability to bind to cells in our body because it’s being blocked,” Shirley explained.

Infusions will be prioritized for those who are at a heightened risk of developing severe symptoms and needing emergency help once infected with the coronavirus.

Risk factors that may allow someone to be eligible for the treatment include:

  • A body mass index (a body-fat measurement based on height and weight) of 35 or higher
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Diseases that weaken the body’s immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis
  • Receiving another treatment that weakens the immune system
  • Age 65 and older
  • Age 55 and older with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other chronic respiratory disease.

“The FDA recommends that patients be within 10 days of their onset of symptoms. In other words, we’re trying to catch patients really early before they have a chance to progress,” Shirley said.

Shirley says the treatment can minimize the number of hospital patients in critical condition with the virus.

“It’s great if hospitals and healthcare centers can offer this for the right patients, especially as we’re trying to do everything we can to keep people out of the hospital and prevent over-burdening of healthcare system. So if it’s a small benefit, I think that’s better than no benefit,” Shirley said.

UVA Health can administer infusions for up to 20 patients a week, with each infusion session lasting over an hour. Shirley said there needs to be an easier way to administer the antibodies and have them readily available in other healthcare facilities.

“We have to work together to offer this therapy because it might be hard for a single facility to offer enough infusions for everybody who could be eligible, but if we all chip in and help then hopefully patients can find a location that they can access and get this therapy if it’s the right choice for them,” the doctor said.

Shirley suggested that those who may qualify for the treatment should contact their healthcare provider to them be connected with a facility providing the infusion, like UVA Health.

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