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Monoclonal antibodies are lab-created antibodies that can help your body fight off specific infections.
Scientists have been working hard since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to find treatments. Monoclonal antibodies are one of the most promising COVID-19 treatments.
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What Are Monoclonal Antibodies?
When a pathogen such as a virus or bacteria enters the body, your immune system recognizes it as foreign.
Your immune system then produces Y-shaped proteins called antibodies that attach to the pathogen and stop it from entering cells. Antibodies also help destroy the pathogen.
Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies that scientists created in the lab. They act like “substitute” antibodies in someone with a disease.
Researchers design monoclonal antibodies to attach to a single specific substance in the body. These antibodies help the immune system attack the disease by mimicking the body’s antibodies or supporting the immune system’s work.
“We’ve designed the monoclonal antibodies to block the ability of the virus to attach and enter into your cells,” says Graham Snyder, MD, medical director, Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology, UPMC. “Essentially, it’s now floating around helpless and weak, so your body can clear it out.”
Several different monoclonal antibodies are already important in fighting certain cancers or slowing the progression of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
How Do Monoclonal Antibodies Fight COVID-19?
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA authorized several monoclonal antibodies as treatments for people infected with SARS-CoV-2. The FDA paused some of those treatments as they showed less effectiveness against certain COVID-19 variants. But they could become available again in the future.
In December 2021, the FDA authorized a monoclonal antibody — a combination of the drugs tixagevimab and cilgavimab, known as Evusheld™ — as a preventive COVID-19 treatment.
As of January 2023, Evusheld is no longer effective against the most recent COVID-19 variants. As a result, the FDA has revoked its EUA for the drug, and it can no longer be administered in the U.S. UPMC has stopped administering Evusheld accordingly.
The makers of Evusheld are developing an updated version of the medicine to protect against current and future COVID-19 variants. This new medicine is in the testing phases, and it is unclear when it will be available to patients.
More potential monoclonal antibody treatments could become available in the future.
Editor's Note: This video was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
National Cancer Institute. Monoclonal antibody. Link
US Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Monoclonal Antibody for Treatment of COVID-19. November 9, 2020. Link
US Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Monoclonal Antibodies for Treatment of COVID-19. November 21, 2020. Link
US Food and Drug Administration. COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions. Link
US Food and Drug Administration. Fact sheet for healthcare providers emergency use authorization (EUA) of bamlanivimab. Link
US Food and Drug Administration. Fact sheet for healthcare providers emergency use authorization (EUA) of casirivimab and imdevimab.
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