What is a monoclonal antibody?

You may have come across the term “monoclonal” antibodies when reading on the Covid 19 Vaccine. So, what exactly is a monoclonal antibody?

Monoclonal antibodies have been suggested to be one of the most effective treatments for moderate or mild COVID-19.

Monoclonal antibodies are similar to your body’s antibodies, but they’ve been identified and selected for their superior capacity to fight off viruses. They’re made like medication and they assist your body in fighting illness.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorised the emergency use of monoclonal antibodies as a method of treatment for COVID-19. However, certain monoclonal antibodies treatment for Covid-19 has since been revised and have not been authorised as studies show that these treatments are relatively unlikely to be effective against the omicron variant.

How does the treatment work?

The purpose of monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapy, otherwise known as monoclonal antibody infusion treatment in treating Covid-19 is to lower viral loads, reduce hospitalizations, and reduce symptom severity.

As the name suggests, this method of therapy relies heavily on monoclonal antibodies. These antibodies are comparable to those produced naturally by the body in response to an infection. However, monoclonal antibodies are produced in large amounts in labs to detect a particular component of this virus, such as the spike protein on the virus’s outer shell.

Targeting the spike proteins enable these antibodies to function by interfering with the virus’s ability to bind to and enter human cells. They help the immune system get a head start until it is able to mount its own defence.

While this treatment may be quite effective, it is by no means a substitute for vaccination. Getting vaccinated remains the most effective way to combat Covid-19.

Should the treatment be used even if you are not feeling sick?

Monoclonal antibody therapy is most effective when it is started as early as possible after the onset of the disease. So, even if the symptoms you are experiencing are not that severe yet, it would still be better to start the treatment early.

Early treatment would be especially beneficial to high-risk individuals as it may help minimise or slow down the progression of the disease, which would otherwise necessitate hospitalisation.

How is the treatment administered and what are the side effects?

Monoclonal antibody therapy is typically administered via intravenous (IV) infusion. It usually takes around an hour for these infusions to be administered, followed by a further hour of patient observation. Alternatively, monoclonal antibody therapy may also be administered through a subcutaneous injection, especially when administered for preventive use. Allergic reactions may develop as a side effect of monoclonal antibody therapy. The symptoms would usually only arise during or shortly after the infusion, and would typically be closely monitored for any potential allergic reactions.

However, it is possible for a delayed allergic reaction to an infusion, in which case, you should immediately contact your doctor right if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling (lips, throat or face)
  • Hives (red itchy welts)
  • Muscle aches

Is it possible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine after receiving monoclonal antibody therapy?

In short, yes. Monoclonal antibody therapy can be used to treat COVID-19 disease or to prevent it from developing after exposure. However,  it is still vital to get vaccinated to keep yourself safe, even if you received monoclonal antibody therapy.

If you have been treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies, you can get vaccinated as soon as you have recovered. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about receiving the Covid-19 vaccine after undergoing monoclonal antibody therapy.