COVID-19 treatment with UNC, Durham ties proving effective against virus, variants

Local News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Since COVID-19 treatments were authorized for use, North Carolina has administered 33,239 courses of monoclonal antibodies. More than 5,000 total courses of monoclonal antibodies were administered from Sept. 8 through Sept. 14.

The state is now using more courses of the treatment in a week than it previously used in a month.

UNC School of Medicine Dr. David Wohl told CBS 17 the UNC Health System administered more than 900 courses of treatment last week alone.

“That’s probably more than scratching the surface but not meeting the demand and part of the problem is there’s a bottleneck,” said Wohl.

Wohl said the current — and only — infusion treatment is complicated. If you are COVID-19 positive and are showing symptoms, you have to know about this treatment and find an infusion center within 10 days of when symptoms start. That center has to have an available chair and an infusion nurse. Wohl said we could benefit from a simpler and easier treatment.

“There is more demand than there is capability to give monoclonal antibodies,” he said.

Wohl is the vice-chair for the ACTIV-2 study. Its purpose is to find a treatment or even a cure for COVID-19. Researchers are looking at inhalers, pills, and shots in addition to infusion-based therapies. This study is unique in the way it goes through its phases.

In a typical study, only one treatment would be studied and if that proves to be ineffective or unsafe, it’s removed and researchers have to start over. UNC’s plan allows for treatments to be introduced without having to start at square one. The ACTIV-2 study also combines testing phases two and three together without compromising safety.

Working with Brii Biosciences in Durham, researchers combined two different kinds of monoclonal antibodies, BRII-196 and BRII-198. They were both designed to be a longer-lasting treatment. The study recently found by combining the two monoclonal antibodies, there was a 78 percent reduction in hospitalization and deaths for high-risk COVID-19 patients. The treatment was also shown to be effective against variants like delta.

“If we can have a world where the majority of people are vaccinated, where they don’t end up in the hospital on a ventilator and for those who do get sick, a medicine that can be called into a pharmacy, that is easy to get, it’s going to be a game-changer,” said Wohl.

The study results still need to be peer-reviewed. As researchers continue to look for treatments, they say vaccines and masking are still effective in preventing infection.

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