For many of us, it may seem like COVID-19 has been with us for ages. So you might be asking, after all this time, if there is any effective treatment for those who do get sick.
It is important to remember that the virus is still relatively new. It was first identified in December of 2019 in Wuhan, China. It was then declared a global pandemic in March of 2020. With new diseases it takes time for scientists to study them and develop treatments.
The good news is that there are some promising treatments for those who get sick with the virus. One of them is antibody infusion therapy. Monoclonal antibodies are given intravenously as infusion therapy. There are also treatments available for people who are hospitalized with COVID-19.
What COVID-19 treatment is there for people outside the hospital?
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 but aren’t sick enough to be hospitalized, you may think there isn’t much you can do. It is important to:
- get rest
- stay hydrated
- take fever-reducing medicine, if needed
Talk with your doctor about monoclonal antibody infusion therapy. There is evidence it is effective in preventing severe illness.
What are monoclonal antibodies?
Antibodies are naturally produced by your body to fight off infections. When your body is introduced to a new virus such as COVID-19, it does not have the antibodies to fight it off. That is where monoclonal antibodies come in. Monoclonal antibodies are created in a laboratory. They can target a particular virus or infection such as COVID-19.
How does monoclonal antibody infusion therapy work?
Monoclonal antibodies are given by IV to people diagnosed with COVID-19. This therapy uses COVID-19 antibodies to help a person’s body fight off the infection. Research suggests these antibodies lower the amount of virus — the “viral load” — in a person’s body. People with lower viral loads have more mild symptoms. Reducing the viral load may help prevent hospitalization and death.
Who should get antibody infusion therapy?
To receive monoclonal antibodies, a person must have a positive COVID-19 test and symptoms for 10 days or less. The therapy for COVID-19 works best when given early in the COVID-19 illness. This is only recommended for those considered high risk for severe illness.
Who is at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19?
While anybody can get very sick or even die from COVID-19, those most at risk include:
- People 65 years of age or older
- People 55 years or older with 1 or more of the following:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Chronic respiratory disease, including asthma
- People 12 years of age or older with 1 or more of the following:
- A weakened immune system
- Taking medicine that weakens your immune system.
- Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
- Chronic kidney disease.
- Children and adolescents 12-17 years of age and weighing more than 88 pounds with 1 or more of the following:
- Asthma/chronic respiratory problems requiring daily medication
- Often uses medical technology such as a ventilator or feeding tube
- Has a developmental condition like cerebral palsy
- Sickle cell disease
- Congenital or acquired heart disease.
What antibody infusion therapies for COVID-19 are available?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved emergency use authorization for three antibody infusion therapies:
- A combination of etesevimab and bamlanivimab
- A combination of casirivimab and imdevimab
How can I get antibody infusion therapy if I have COVID-19?
Monoclonal antibodies are prescribed by a healthcare professional. For those at high risk or already diagnosed with COVID-19, discuss treatment options with your doctor.
How is antibody infusion therapy given?
Monoclonal antibodies are administered by IV at an infusion center. Upon arrival, you will have an IV started. Then you will have the antibody infusion about an hour later.
After the infusion is complete, the staff will monitor you for another hour. This is to watch for any signs of an allergic reaction. The whole process takes about 2-3 hours.
Where can I get monoclonal antibody infusion therapy?
Since monoclonal antibodies are administered by IV, they are currently only available in infusion centers. To locate an infusion center near you, visit:
What are the side effects of antibody infusion therapy?
People who receive monoclonal antibody treatment may experience pain at the infusion site, including:
- Skin bruising
- Possible infection
More serious side effects include:
- Interferes with your body’s ability to fight off a future COVID-19 infection
- Reduces your body’s immune response to a COVID-19 vaccine
After undergoing infusion therapy, you must wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
What are signs of an allergic reaction to monoclonal antibody infusion therapy?
People can have an allergic reaction to monoclonal antibody infusion therapy. This is why you must be monitored at the infusion clinic for one hour after your infusion.
Signs of an allergic reaction to report to a healthcare professional:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Low blood pressure
- Swelling of your lips, face, or throat
- Rash, including hives.
- Muscle aches
Are people still contagious after monoclonal antibody infusion therapy?
Antibody infusion therapy does not “cure” COVID-19. Even after receiving treatment, a person is still considered contagious. It is important to continue self-isolation until:
- 10 or more days have passed since you developed symptoms of COVID-19.
- You are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine such as ibuprofen.
- Your COVID-19 symptoms are improving.
What treatments can be used for COVID-19 in hospitalized patients?
Doctors have developed effective treatments for hospitalized patients.
- Dexamethasone (Decadron) is a corticosteroid (like prednisone). In patients who need extra oxygen or are on a ventilator, dexamethasone can reduce risk of death.
- Remdesivir is an antiviral drug. It can be used in people over the age of 12 weighing 88 pounds or more. It can help speed up the recovery time for people with COVID-19.
- Baricitinib in combination with remdesivir is available for use in patients over the age of 2 who need respiratory support.
- Blood thinners in low doses are frequently used to prevent blood clots. Many people with COVID-19 develop them. Doctors may prescribe higher doses of blood thinners in people who are at high risk for developing blood clots
Scientists continue to study COVID-19. They update guidance on treatments as new evidenced-based research becomes available.