On November 30, 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deauthorized bebtelovimab for emergency use in the United States. This was the last monoclonal antibody drug authorized by the FDA to treat COVID-19. The decision was made because it is not expected to neutralize new Omicron subvariants.

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Our understanding of how to treat COVID-19 has come a very long way since the start of the pandemic. Although many of these treatments are still new and need to be studied further, initial results have been extremely promising.

Monoclonal antibody treatments are a great example of this.

Monoclonal antibodies work like the body’s own immune system to help fight COVID-19. Since they were first approved for emergency use in November 2020, monoclonal antibodies have been successfully used to help reduce hospitalization and emergency room visits.

In this article, we take a look at what monoclonal antibodies are and how they can be harnessed to treat COVID-19.

Illustration showing how monoclonal antibody treatment worksShare on Pinterest
How monoclonal antibodies work against COVID-19. Medical Illustration by Bailey Mariner

Monoclonal antibodies act like your body’s own antibodies to help stop the symptoms of COVID-19. They can prevent hospitalization and reduce the severity of your illness.

An antibody is a protein your immune system makes in response to a specific infection. Antibodies are what help your body fight off those infections.

Monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 can fight COVID-19 because they act like antibodies produced by your immune system.

However, it’s important to note that monoclonal antibodies do not replace a COVID-19 vaccine. They are intended as a treatment for COVID-19, not as a preventive measure.

Monoclonal antibodies enter the body and attach to the spike proteins that stick out of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The coronavirus cannot enter cells with a monoclonal antibody on its protein spikes. This slows down the infection. It can help other treatments work more effectively and reduce the total time someone is sick with COVID-19.

Monoclonal antibodies are a newer treatment for COVID-19. It’s not yet known how long these treatments will last or whether they will protect against future coronavirus infections. But initial research has shown that monoclonal antibodies can reduce hospitalizations and visits to the emergency room.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized clinical trials of additional monoclonal antibody treatments. These include:

These treatments are only authorized for investigational, or trial, use. They have not been fully approved as COVID-19 treatments.

However, they are available as emergency treatments during the COVID-19 pandemic. The exact monoclonal antibody treatment available can vary depending on your location.

The FDA recommends monoclonal antibody treatment for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and who have a high risk of severe illness. It’s also best to get monoclonal antibody therapy as early in the course of COVID-19 as possible.

Complete qualifications for monoclonal antibody treatment generally include:

Specific healthcare facilities might have additional requirements, such as age, for administering monoclonal antibody therapy.

Can you get monoclonal antibody therapy if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding?

Pregnancy is considered a risk factor for more severe COVID-19 and will make you eligible for monoclonal therapy.

Additionally, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that monoclonal antibody therapy is safe to receive if you’re breastfeeding.

That said, it’s a good idea to talk with your obstetrician before getting treatment. They can give you recommendations based on your specific circumstances.

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Monoclonal antibody treatments are given intravenously. You’ll receive treatment at an outpatient clinic.

The infusion itself will only take about 30 seconds, but you’ll stay in the outpatient clinic for about an hour. This allows medical staff to observe you for any side effects or reactions.

Before you leave, medical staff will give you information on what to do if you experience any side effects at home.

Once you return home, it’s still important to follow quarantine guidelines and any instructions you’ve received from a doctor. The monoclonal antibodies can help your body fight COVID-19, but they won’t be an instant cure.

There are a few possible side effects of monoclonal antibody therapy. Most side effects are mild and will resolve on their own after a few hours. Rarely, more serious side effects have been reported.

Side effects of monoclonal therapy might include:

  • redness or itching at the infusion site
  • bruising at the infusion site
  • bleeding at the infusion site
  • dizziness
  • rash
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • a rare allergic reaction to the infusion

Can I have monoclonal antibody therapy if I just got vaccinated against COVID-19?

Yes. You can receive monoclonal therapy if you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.

It doesn’t matter how recent your COVID-19 vaccine was, or whether you’ve had boosters. You’re still eligible to receive monoclonal antibodies as long as you meet the other eligibility criteria.

Should I continue to isolate while receiving monoclonal antibody therapy?

Yes. It’s extremely important to continue isolating according to current local and federal guidelines after receiving monoclonal antibody therapy.

Monoclonal antibodies can help your body fight COVID-19 faster and more effectively, but you will still have COVID-19 after your treatment is complete. Isolating can help prevent getting other people sick.

It’s best to continue following all instructions from your doctor and attend any follow-up appointments.

Monoclonal antibody treatment can help your body fight COVID-19.

Monoclonal antibodies work like antibodies made by your own immune system. They attach to the spike proteins on the coronavirus and prevent it from entering your cells. This slows the spread of the virus and can make your case less severe.

Currently, monoclonal antibodies are being used to treat COVID-19 in people who test positive for COVID-19 and have a high risk of severe illness. Monoclonal antibody therapy has been shown to help reduce symptoms and hospitalizations.