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Monoclonal antibody treatment shows success for COVID-19 patients at Arkansas hospital

A monoclonal antibody treatment is being described as a "game changer" in the fight against the virus, and it's helping save lives in Arkansas.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — We've received several questions about the ways doctors and nurses are treating people hospitalized with COVID-19.

THV11 took a closer look at one that UAMS described as a "game changer" in the fight against the virus, and it's helping save lives.

They've been using the treatment at UAMS since December and it's turning several patients' fights, like Cathy Lewter's, into victories. 

"I'm very grateful because I would not have appreciated the other road I could've taken by not receiving that," she said.

Lewter was diagnosed with COVID-19 on July 27.

"I ached all over, runny nose, coughed all night long, had to sit up in order to breathe just to sleep. I was miserable," she said.

Back in December, Lewter was a nurse at UAMS working in their infusion clinic. 

Little did the 62-year-old cancer survivor know, she'd be the patient sitting in that chair months later.

"I'd do this again in a heartbeat. I just cannot imagine how quickly it reacted for me. I feel very very good," Lewter said.

Just one infusion and one week later, she is back to feeling like herself again.

Lewter is one of the over 500 patients at UAMS who have received the monoclonal antibody treatment according to Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Ryan Dare.

"We have very few tools in our kit that have been proven to be effective at COVID treatment and this is one of those three or four treatments," he said.

Dare said with just one 30 minute IV infusion, the antibodies can block the virus from attaching to human cells and progressing infection. 

"It's improving outcomes, it decreases hospital admissions, it's decreasing deaths. We know that the sooner you get it, the less likely you are to be admitted," he said.

The treatment is recommended for high-risk patients, like someone who's older or immunosuppressed.

According to Dare, it can decrease their chance of hospitalization or death by 70%.

"This is the only therapeutic option for patients to take in the outpatient setting to prevent getting sicker. Time is of the essence," he said.

"I would recommend it for anybody. It's a small investment of your time for a great reward," Lewter said.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is a high-risk patient, you can email healthnow@uams.edu to get in touch with the UAMS treatment clinic.