Thailand’s top virologist has commented on the use of antibodies to treat COVID-19 in immunocompromised patients. He suggested that the long-acting antibodies (LAABs) already available in the kingdom should be utilized during the current wave of COVID outbreaks. The effectiveness of the LAABs in stock is expected to only decline as the coronavirus mutates further.
Dr Yong Poovorawan, a virology expert at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, explained that antibodies were used during the early stages of the pandemic. COVID vaccines were not available at the time and so plasma from recovered patients, which contained antibodies, were used to treat new patients. With the development of proper vaccines that trigger antibody production in recipients, there was no longer a need for plasma treatment.
Dr Yong, who heads the university’s Center of Excellence in Clinical Virology, wrote that continuous viral mutations make manufactured antibodies less effective. With Omicron BA.2.75 being the current dominant strain, the most effective antibodies available in Thailand are those acquired under the LAAB procurement scheme. Dr Yong added that current LAABs will become even less effective as the virus mutates further and as sub-variants of the BQ.1, BQ.1.1 or XBB strains become widespread.
The virologist is recommending that antibodies be given to patients with weak immune systems, such as those with chronic kidney failure, people on immunosuppressants, organ transfer patients and cancer patients undergoing certain stages of treatment.
Dr Yong wrote that LAABs can be used to treat members of vulnerable groups who have not received sufficient vaccine injections. Administering LAABs as soon as possible after contracting COVID can also reduce symptom severity and risk of death.
He noted that the Ministry of Health has enough LAABs in stock for patients who need them, adding that the treatment is very safe. He also advised putting the current LAAB stock to use now while it remains effective. (NNT)