What to Know About Monoclonal Antibodies for COVID-19

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on January 03, 2023
2 min read

They are a type of medical treatment. Scientists make monoclonal antibodies, or mAbs, in a lab. They work like the natural antibodies your body makes to fight illness. They go out into your body to identify and attack germs like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Research seems to show that some mAbs, when used correctly, may help some people with COVID-19.

To make monoclonal antibodies, scientists expose a specific type of cell from the immune system to a particular viral protein -- in this case, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. They can then design the mAb to target a particular virus or a specific part of the infection process.

For COVID-19, scientists made several mAbs that bind to the spike protein on the virus's surface. This stops the virus from invading human cells.

Recommendations for COVID-19 mAb treatments are in constant flux. So check the CDC or other government websites for the latest recommendations.  

Monoclonal antibodies, like most medications, carry risks and side effects that you and your doctor need to weigh against any possible benefits. They can cause allergic reactions or infection at the injection site, among other problems. These risks become less worth it when the drug is known not to work against your illness.

The way doctors use mAbs to treat or prevent COVID-19 changes constantly as the virus continues to evolve and scientists learn more about how these medications work. There may be different recommendations for individual drugs or drug combinations.

To find out if these treatments are right for you, you can start by checking the online COVID-19 information sites at the CDC, FDA, or NIH. After that, talk to your doctor to find out if mAbs are good for your particular age, illness, and health history.

Doctors tend to use mAbs in people with COVID-19 who aren't sick enough for hospital care but have risk factors for serious infection. These might include people who:

  • Are older than 65
  • Are obese
  • Have a weak immune system
  • Have certain medical conditions

Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you have COVID-19 symptoms and think you could be a candidate for mAbs because early treatment is key to their success.