Monoclonal antibody treatments work against delta variant when taken in first week of symptoms: doctors

Monoclonal antibody treatments are available for Floridians who get COVID-19 and doctors say the treatment is effective against all the variants.

Governor Ron DeSantis met with Tampa General Hospital doctors in Tampa to let more people know it’s a safe treatment that works. But the key, doctors say, is to get the treatment before you are seriously ill.

"The name of the game is, if you’re infected, we just want you to be OK. And if you do this, the chances of you having one of those 14-day hospital stays in the ICU goes down dramatically," said DeSantis.

Doctors across the state are using the hour-long therapy, but they stressed you have to get it within the first week of testing positive.

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"Many people, unfortunately, are waiting until they're really extremely sick. And at that point, it's too late. We can't do that for them," Carlos Migoya, the president at Jackson Health System.

The monoclonal antibody treatment has been approved for emergency use since November. Soon after, the University of South Florida teamed up with TGH to study how well it works. Dr. Kim shared results during a press conference from the first 200 patients with mild to moderate symptoms.

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"These were initially high-risk patients for severe COVID, and that showed that 70% of hospitalizations were prevented by receiving these antibodies," said Dr. Kami Kim, the director of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine at USF Health and an attending physician at TGH. "More recent data has come out that not only are these antibodies more effective for treatment of COVID, but they seem to be a very important tool for preventing COVID in people who have also been exposed."

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TGH doctors have now treated 1,600 patients with the therapy. Monoclonal antibodies were used on former president Donald Trump last year when he got the virus. 

Doctors said the treatment works to cut your downtime dealing with the virus, and it’s an important treatment they didn’t have a year ago. Kim said the criteria for who qualifies for the treatment has expanded, so it’s available to more people now.

"If you talk to your doctor and if you're within, say, a week, the symptoms and your doctor feels like you will benefit, then you can be referred for monoclonal antibodies," said Kim.

The goal is to avoid COVID, but if you get infected it’s important to get diagnosed and treated quickly, Kim said.

"I think everyone's tired of COVID. I'm tired of COVID. But I think that it's really, really important to take it seriously because we've got good treatments and we got vaccines," said Kim.

Doctors said they’ve used similar antibody therapies to treat cancer and other illnesses for 10 years.