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Relevant for: Developmental Issues | Topic: Health & Sanitation and related issues

Monoclonal antibody treatment is now seen as a relatively effective and safer alternative in treating COVID-19 patients, with doctors stating that, as with any other drug, timing is very important for the administration of the therapy.

Monoclonal antibody drugs fight disease by enlisting natural immune system functions.

If given within 72 hours of the appearance of symptoms, it is proven to show good results and could be the way forward in tackling the SARS-CoV-2 virus, doctors note. Monoclonal antibodies have previously been used to treat infections such as Ebola and HIV.

“Monoclonal antibody treatment isn’t a one-size-fits-all therapy. It is to be given only to mild COVID-19 patients who are not requiring oxygen, and there is high risk of progression or hospitalisation due to existing comorbidities,” warns Akshay Budhraja, senior pulmonologist, Aakash Healthcare.

Outwitting the virus

“Antibodies for COVID target specific proteins and destroy them before they initiate inflammation, which causes worsening of symptoms like breathlessness, blood clotting and severe pneumonia. In simple words, antibody response, which takes 7-10 days after infection, gives the virus the window period to attack the body. This window period is covered by injecting monoclonal antibodies, which help in reducing the symptoms and disease progression,” said Dr. Budhraja.

In the national capital, the therapy was successfully used in two patients recently — a 36-year-old healthcare worker and an 80-year-old male at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. According to the doctors here, both patients showed improvement within 12 hours of administering the treatment.

Treating physician Pooja Khosla, senior consultant, Department of Medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said that the two patients were administered REGCov2 (Casirivimab and Imdevimab), designed to produce resistance against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

“Monoclonal antibody treatment could prove to be a game changer in times to come if used at the appropriate time. It can be given up to 10 days from the beginning of the symptoms and is not for low oxygen level patients. This awareness about early identification of the high risk category in our population and timely therapy with monoclonal antibody as day care treatment may reduce the burden of cost on the healthcare sector,” Dr. Khosla said.

The doctor added that monoclonal antibody therapy cost Rs. 60,000-70,000 and significantly reduced hospital stay.

“The key principle while using the therapy was that it should be given at the right time to the high risk group,” she said.

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