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SWFL health systems set to receive new monoclonal antibody treatment

Twenty more people who tested positive for the coronavirus were admitted to Lee Health hospitals in the past 24 hours Friday. Lee Health has 124 patients with COVID-19 isolated its hospitals, and nine COVID-19 patients are on ventilators. At NCH, 46 people are in the hospital with COVID-19.

Southwest Florida will soon have a treatment to help possibly curb the time COVID-19 patients are staying at hospitals.

Starting Monday, health systems in Southwest Florida will receive a new antibody treatment to help reduce hospital stays for those with COVID19.

The treatment is for people who are in the early stages of COVID-19 with mild to moderate symptoms. They must be high-risk to qualify for the treatment.

For those who meet the criteria, doctors told us this could keep their condition from worsening and prevent them from the long hospital stays thousands have experienced.

COVID-19 survivor Connie Ramos-Williams spent one week in the hospital after contracting COVID-19, and nearly six weeks after testing negative, she’s still experiencing lingering symptoms.

“It’s been a tough and long recovery,” Ramos-Williams said.

Ramos-Williams is happy to hear Florida hospitals have a new monoclonal antibody treatment to help high-risk, COVID-19 patients before they end up staying in the hospital like she did.

“I think that’s incredible that they are continuing to do research and find antibodies,” Ramos-Williams said.

The drug bamlanivimab uses the same neutralizing antibodies found in convalescent plasma that helps patients fight the virus before their body makes their own antibodies.

“They have synthesized monoclonal antibodies to mimic that same response, and now it’s in an infusion that we can give that basically will then target COVID-19,” said Dr. David Lindner, who leads the NCH Health System’s COVID-19 response team.

“They bind to the spike proteins, and they prevent the virus from getting into human cells and then prevent the infection,” said Dr.Kami Kim, with USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said 3,000 doses went out to Florida hospitals in the first batch. Hospitals will receive more doses on a weekly basis. Doctors say it’s most effective during the first 10 days of the infection.

Lee Health, NCH and Fawcett Memorial Hospital all have the treatment, which is administered by an IV. A doctor has to order the treatment for an at-risk patient with mild to moderate symptoms.

“It does appear to provide a degree of improvement for those people, and it decreases the amount of patients who require hospitalization, and that’s the goal here,” Lindner said.

It’s a goal Ramos-Williams hopes can be achieved on a large scale, so no one else has to endue what she has.

“Hopefully they will continue doing research though to make antibody type treatments available to all patients that end up with COVID-19,” Ramos-Williams said.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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