Monoclonal antibodies study in Utah shows promise against COVID-19

Aug 9, 2021, 6:08 PM
monoclonal antibodies study...
(Dr. Brandon Webb, infectious disease physician with Intermountain Healthcare, speaking about his study into monoclonal antibodies. Photo courtesy Intermountain Healthcare)
(Dr. Brandon Webb, infectious disease physician with Intermountain Healthcare, speaking about his study into monoclonal antibodies. Photo courtesy Intermountain Healthcare)

MURRAY, Utah — With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Utah, doctors across the state are looking for other ways to keep the number of deaths and hospitalizations down.  And researchers with Intermountain Healthcare said their research into monoclonal antibodies is extremely encouraging.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, monoclonal antibodies are “laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses.”

Currently, there are three monoclonal antibody treatments on the market.  One works effectively on the Alpha variant of COVID-19. The other treatments work on the Delta variant, which has become the more dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus.

Researchers at Intermountain Healthcare studied the treatments of nearly 600 people who received the monoclonal antibodies within seven days of feeling symptoms. The results have local doctors feeling very optimistic.

 “It was a 57 percent reduction in the rate of needing hospitalization,” said Intermountain Healthcare Infectious Disease Physician Brandon Webb.

Webb also said that people who received these antibodies were 31% less likely to need emergency care. There was also a decrease in the number of people who died after receiving the treatment.  He believes vaccination is the most effective way to protect people from the virus, but monoclonal antibodies went a long way in helping people already infected with COVID-19.

When we target the right patient population, monoclonal antibodies can be a very important tool in preventing hospitalization,” he said.

However, there is a catch.  Webb said these treatments have to happen within seven days of people feeling the initial symptoms.  If someone waits until they’re already hospitalized to ask for the treatment, the monoclonal antibodies are not effective.

“We really need to encourage patients to get tested early after their symptoms start,” Webb said.

Are these treatments readily available in Utah?

Yes. And, no.  Webb said there isn’t any shortage of monoclonal antibodies, but they can’t be given in any kind of hospital setting.  Instead, they have to be given intravenously at emergency departments and infusion centers, similar to where people would get chemotherapy.  So while there are plenty of antibodies, there might not be enough workers at an infusion center to administer them. 

Webb said the state has formed a committee that prioritizes patients asking for antibody treatment.

“That [committee] has set eligibility criteria for monoclonal antibody therapy so that we are matching demand with capacity,” according to Webb.

Officials with Intermountain said they’ve placed treatment centers across the state and that nobody living near the I-15 corridor is more than an hour’s drive away.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet).
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities).
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States


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