BILLINGS — After Gov. Greg Gianforte announced on Thursday the opening of the first state-sponsored monoclonal antibody therapy clinic for COVID-19 patients in Butte, Billings health experts are weighing on what it means.
Both hospitals in Billings offer the therapy for patients who already have COVID-19, which has been available since the end of last year.
"It is an engineered, man-made antibodies that's specifically is designed to target the virus," said Dr. Neil Ku, hospital epidemiologist at Billings Clinic.
Ku is an infectious disease specialist and talked about how monoclonal antibody treatment works.
"These antibodies will then bind to a part of the virus, the spike protein, and that will prevent the virus from infecting your normal cells," he said. "And then somehow, the body will then recognize that to try to clear out that that combination of the virus and antibodies. That's the theory behind that."
Ku said the therapy is for patients who have been diagnosed within the last 10 days.
"It's not just one antibody but actually two different types of monoclonal antibody," Ku said. "This requires someone who can administer this therapy. You know, take about 20 minutes to get the injections and then an hour of observation afterwards."
And he says while it has been effective, it's still best to not get COVID-19.
"It should never be considered as a substitute for vaccination," Ku said. "The monoclonal antibody is not permanent. They are authorized for emergency use. It's not so much as experimental. There's enough studies been done and that that allowed it to be authorized."