New antibody treatment played key role in doctor’s COVID-19 recovery

For Dr. Michael Pikos, the symptoms began in the weeks before Christmas.

"Both my wife and I really had trouble getting out of bed, almost like someone had beat the daylights out of us," the oral surgeon said.

It was COVID-19, and the symptoms were only getting worse.

"When I wasn’t able to breathe, I’d couldn’t take more than a deep breath and I’d start coughing," Pikos said.

After a quick trip to the AdventHealth ER in Palm Harbor, he learned he was a candidate for an infusion of monoclonal antibodies, also known as bamlanivimab.

"The antibody goes right after the spike protein and it prevents the virus from entering our human cells," said Dr. Michael Longley, AdventHealth’s chief medical officer in Pinellas County.

"He told me the pros and cons and I said yes, absolutely, let’s try it," Pikos said. "Because the next option for me was a full-blown admission [to the ER]."

Longley says it only takes an hour to infuse. Ideal candidates are those who are over 65 or have other associated comorbidities, but anyone over age 12 or who weighs more than 14 kilograms can receive it.

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"We’re asking that folks come in within the onset of 10 days of their symptoms. The earlier the better," Longley explained. "Most of the folks we’re infusing are feeling better within 24 hours, some 24-48 hours."

For Dr. Pikos, that was right on the mark.

"It took about 30 hours. By Saturday, I was feeling a lot better," he said.

The treatment, unlike convalescent plasma, is synthetic, or made in a lab, and though not FDA approved, it’s been greenlighted for emergency authorization use.

"The emergency use authorization is based on smaller trials that we just haven’t had enough time for a thorough peer review," Longley said. "It is a wonderful option and it’s been very safe, and I think it’s something everyone should be comfortable knowing if they need it, it’s a safe option for them."

Pikos says he’d recommend it to anyone. 

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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