Local hospital leads fight against COVID-19 with groundbreaking IV antibody infusion

Maryland

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Since last March, hospitals have taken the brunt force of the coronavirus. But the introduction of monoclonal antibody therapy could help keep hospitals afloat and patients out of the intensive care unit.

Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown, Maryland is leading the way in a coronavirus therapy treatment that could keep hospitals from becoming overrun in the event of another spike. They are the regional infusion center and were one of the first to receive approval to begin the therapy treatment in November.

Now, recent data from the state shows that Meritus has accounted for over 20% of all monoclonal antibody infusions administered. Meritus has administered 631 infusions out of 3034 statewide.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to permit the emergency use of the unapproved product bamlanivimab, which is used for monoclonal antibody therapy, in November.

Dr. Aaron George is the Chief Medical Officer of Meritus Health, explained that the treatment is an IV infusion that takes COVID fighting proteins, or antibodies, and introduces them to the patient’s body.

“So one of the things that we know about any infection is that the body’s immune system mounts a response and that is in the form of antibodies which attack that infection,” Dr. George explained. “What we’ve been able to do in a lab is mimic those antibodies and in a single infusion provide them to patients to try to fight off the infection as best as possible.”

“In other words, these antibodies target a component of COVID, the spike protein and help to prevent that spike protein from attaching to and entering into cells.”

Dr. Aaron George

While this IV infusion therapy is a step in the right direction, it is not recommended for every patient with coronavirus.

Dr. George explained that this therapy is best for those individuals within the first 10 days of infection that have a high risk of progressing towards hospitalization or severe disease. These individuals are usually people over the age of 65, have preexisting medical conditions like COPD or diabetes, or people receiving cancer therapy.

Staff from all over Meritus Health have been pulled in to help in the infusion center like Beth Guthrie who is originally a wound care nurse. She explained that staff from every department have assisted the infusion center. She and her team of nurses have receive positive feedback about the therapy.

“We’ve heard good things about it… Just secondhand because we’re not actually talking to the patients after they leave, but we get a lot of family members of patients who come in after they test positive,” Guthrie stated. “Then their family members come in because the other family member is feeling better and they want the treatment too.”

Monoclonal antibody therapy is only available by referral, so if you or a loved one believe you could benefit from the therapy, please speak with a doctor or physician.

If you do receive this therapy treatment, you will be unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for 90 days.

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