What monoclonal antibodies are - and why we need them as well as a vaccine
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When President Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, one of the cutting-edge experimental therapies he received was a mixture of monoclonal antibodies. But now a vaccine may soon be available. So are other therapies necessary or valuable? And what exactly is a monoclonal antibody?
Over the past few months, the public has learned about many treatments being used to combat COVID-19. An antiviral like remdesivir inhibits the virus from replicating in human cells. Convalescent plasma from the blood of donors who have recovered from COVID-19 may contain antibodies that suppress the virus and inflammation. Steroids like dexamethasone may modify and reduce the dangerous inflammatory damage to the lungs, thereby slowing respiratory failure.
The FDA issued emergency use authorization for Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody, called bamlanivimab, and Regeneron is waiting for FDA’s green light for its antibody treatment. Monoclonal antibodies are particularly promising in therapy because they can neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, and block its ability to infect a cell. This might be a lifesaving intervention in people who are unable to mount a strong natural immune response to the virus – those over 65 or with existing conditions that make them more vulnerable.
I’ve worked in public health and medical laboratories for decades, specializing in the study of viruses and other microbes. Even when a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available, I see a role for monoclonal antibody therapy in getting the pandemic under control.
CitationRohde, R. (2020). What monoclonal antibodies are - and why we need them as well as a vaccine. The Conversation.
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