For patients who have been recently diagnosed with COVID-19, Inova Loudoun is offering an FDA-approved therapy at locations in northern Virginia, according to Dr. Edward Puccio, medical director in the department of emergency medicine at Inova Loudoun Hospital.
Puccio says when the pandemic began, there were not any immediate treatment options for patients who test positive but are asymptomatic.
However, doctors are now using monoclonal antibody infusions that specifically target an antigen or a spike protein on the virus, he said.
In November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an Emergency Use Authorization to two monoclonal antibody treatments — Regeneron and Bamlanivimab. Puccio said that either one will target the spike protein to neutralize the virus and decrease the viral load that prevents the virus from entering the cells.
“It does the job before your body creates antibodies, and it immediately attaches to the virus,” he said.
Puccio said that studies have shown that using the treatment can reduce hospitalizations by half, especially for those with high-risk medical conditions. For that population, their risk of being hospitalized with COVID goes from 9 percent to 3 percent, he said.
“Primarily with high-risk people, the earlier the better for receiving this treatment within a day or two of diagnosis. As soon as you can get it is best. It cannot be administered after 10 days following diagnosis,” he said.
In Loudoun County, as of Feb. 16, the 7-day positivity rate was 9.1 percent for the PCR test and 9.6 percent positive for the antigen test. Antibody tests are 31.2 percent positive.
As for vaccines, 48,340 people had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Feb. 16, while 12,192 people had received two doses.
Puccio recommends monoclonal antibody infusions for anyone who has tested positive with COVID-19 and has a chronic medical condition or a body mass index (BMI) over 85 percent, anyone older than 65 or for someone with kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or immune suppressive diseases.
“A lot of people qualify. If someone tests positive in the ER, we can give them an infusion, which takes 30 to 60 minutes, then we observe them for one hour afterward before they can go home,” he said.
Puccio estimates they have done more than 1,000 infusions at Inova’s Emergency Room department in recent weeks and have seen no significant negative reactions.He added that if a patient receives the infusion, they will need to wait 90 days before being vaccinated.
Inova has three infusion clinics in northern Virginia – Fairfax, Reston and Lorton. He said that anyone who lives in Loudoun County can go to one of those clinics.