TOPEKA — After she contracted COVID-19, Amber Stiles says, a monoclonal antibody treatment study she participated in helped minimize the draining effects of the virus.
The therapy is an infusion of mass-produced antibodies, like those a person’s body makes in response to infection. The goal of monoclonal treatment is to prevent hospitalizations, reduce viral loads and lessen symptom severity.
Styles, senior director of regulatory compliance and risk management at the University of Kansas Health System, quickly contacted the administrator of a monoclonal antibody study at the health system after receiving her positive test result. By the time she received the infusion, she was already losing her sense of taste and smell and was feeling very fatigued.
The treatment helped turn the tide in her bout with the virus, Styles said.
“My COVID journey was pretty short compared to others,” Styles said. “When you contract COVID you literally sit there waiting for something to happen … so I felt really blessed to be able to participate in the study, and I felt better within a few days.”
Monoclonal antibody infusion treatments have been authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration for almost one year. They are intended to target high-risk individuals or those with a variety of symptoms.
When KU Health System launched the antibody study almost a year ago, Amber was one of the first patients to participate, said Mario Castro, vice chair for clinical and translational research. He said this treatment is familiar to medical staff and can be used in patients with conditions ranging from arthritis to asthma to organ transplants.
While the therapy has not been given full authorization, Castro was encouraged by early data. He urged those who are in the early days of COVID-19 symptoms to reach out about potentially undergoing this treatment.
“The FDA wants to see thousands and thousands of patients’ data being tracked in a period of observation time to see what the long-term side effects are from these, and we’re not there yet,” Castro said. “The data has not been really accumulated and cleaned up for the FDA to really decide when to give it full approval, but we’re treating patients with this every day.”
Castro and his teams are also reviewing other potential treatments to cut down on COVID-19 symptom severity.
While these methods may provide benefits for those infected, medical professionals at KU Health System emphasize that vaccines are the optimal way to prevent and reduce spread of the virus.
“These vaccines are really made to prevent hospitalization and death,” said Dana Hawkinson medical director of infection prevention and control at KU Health System. “I think the bulk of the data we have continues to stay at 85 plus or more efficacy, protecting against hospitalization, severe disease and death, and that is for all age groups.”