Huntsville doctor says antibody treatment shows signs of preventing severe COVID-19


HUNTSVILLE, Texas (KBTX) - Huntsville Memorial Hospital is the latest to start offering COVID-19 monoclonal antibody infusion treatments. As the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations continues to rise across the state, more treatments and resources are becoming available for those who contract the virus.

Dr. Sujesh Pillai is the chief of staff for Huntsville Memorial. He says they’ve administered a little over 50 infusions in the last two weeks, and only one person had to be admitted to the hospital.

“When you get the infusion treatment, it’s a one-hour IV infusion that we do in the hospital. You’re not admitted. You go home right after it’s done,” said Pillai. “It’s very well tolerated. It has been shown to have about 70 to 80% chance of preventing you from developing severe COVID or ending up coming to the hospital at all and helping you get a full recovery.”

Dr. Pillai says the goal of the treatment is to keep COVID-19 patients out of the hospital.

“The key to this antibody infusion is that you do it early in the treatment. The sooner you do it, the more effective it is because it binds to that coronavirus and prevents it from entering the cells of your body,” said Dr. Pillai. “It does not prevent you from getting it necessarily. The antibody infusion is another treatment form for those patients who say declined the vaccine. Say they’re vaccinated, but they got COVID, but they still have risk factors like they’re over the age of 65, they have diabetes or high blood pressure, or heart problems that would put them at risk of getting severe COVID. So it’s another treatment form that we highly recommend.”

Troy Feild contracted COVID-19 earlier this month. Fortunately, he didn’t have to be hospitalized. His wife and parents also contracted the virus.

“My wife and I both tested positive for COVID a little over two weeks ago. We were being treated for it, and then we came across the monoclonal antibody infusions, and it’s been phenomenal,” said Feild. " I mean, the hospital was just unbelievable. The staff through their tenacity and the thorough job that they’ve been doing. They have done five of my family members just at that hospital alone since they started this program.”

Felid says he and his parents are recovering. However, his wife is battling pneumonia. Feild says he credits his recovery to receiving the antibody treatment. He also says he thinks his wife’s condition would be worse had she not received the infusions.

“Being able to do this program helped us recover a lot faster. My wife, she’s actually in the hospital there with pneumonia. She had pneumonia before she had the infusion, but it helped her get over the COVID symptoms,” said Feild. “She’s just dealing with the pneumonia side of it right now. I do believe that helped her recover a whole lot quicker, a lot faster.”

Feild described the severity of his symptoms of COVID as an 8 out of 10 and said it’s an experience that he’ll never forget.

“Constantly running a fever, a battle with the fever. I never lost taste and smell on my side. My wife lost sensitivity to food but never lost the taste and smell,” said Feild. “Just with a headache and being very tired. Just the fever. Waking up in the middle of the night. A hacking cough, a dry hacking cough, which I’m still kind of trying to get over that part, but I’m testing negative now.”

Amber Alsip is an infusion nurse at Huntsville Memorial. She says if you qualify for the treatments, the process is simple.

“Once the patient arrives into the infusion center, the infusion takes 30 minutes. Then we monitor them for one hour post just to make sure that there are no immediate allergic reactions to the medication. Then we have them follow up with their physician in a week,” said Alsip.

Alsip says she sees the infusions as a great resource to help combat the virus. She encourages everyone to be aware of COVID-19 symptoms and be proactive rather than reactive.

“I do see this as a great resource to allow the patients to get treatment and combat the COVID virus as an outpatient, instead of trying to treat some of the symptoms that they’re having as an inpatient. I do believe this will allow us to free up some beds in the hospitals,” said Alsip. “It’s a vital part of medicine nowadays. “In medicine, being proactive is always better than being reactive. Especially with monoclonals, evidence shows that the earlier you get it treated, the more likely that it’s going to actually prevent you from having to be put into the hospital. So stay on top of it. Know your body.”

Huntsville Memorial says you should contact your physician to see if you qualify for the treatments.

Antibody treatment is free for those who meet the qualifications. You may be eligible for treatment if you have tested positive for COVID-19, are 12 years of age or older (and at least 88 pounds), and are at a greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms. Greater risk symptoms include having a body mass index (BMI) ≥35, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, immunosuppressive disease, currently receiving immunosuppressive treatment.

For a complete list of qualifications, contact your physician.

Click here to find the closest antibody infusion center near you.

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