Hamilton: Innovative research
provides hope against Covid

TORONTO – St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton (SJHH) opens Ontario’s first Monoclonal Antibody Therapy Clinic. It is the first of its kind in the province, dedicated to treating outpatients with Covid-19 who are at a greater risk of severe illness, complications and hospitalization.

The monoclonal antibody is a protein. When introduced in the body, via intravenous, the protein attaches to the Covid-19 spike protein and prevents the virus from penetrating and infecting healthy cells in the body.

Located at SJHH’s Charlton Campus, the clinic began treating patients on October 18. The clinic, with capacity to treat 15-outpatients per day, currently treats physician-referred patients who meet specific criteria. Eligible patients are those who have tested positive for Covid-19, are over the age of 18 and at high-risk for hospitalization. This group, includes the unvaccinated or those who are immune-compromised.

Dr. Zain Chagla, Infectious Disease Specialist at SJHH said in a press release, “Our goal is to reach the most high-risk Covid-positive patients, to prevent them from getting so sick that they end up hospitalized or dying”.

Medical experts still advise that the best way to combat Covid-19 is through vaccination. Dr. Chagla, who runs the clinic said, “this pilot project will assist researchers in determining the impact of the Monoclonal Antibody Therapy and at the same time free up beds in our hospitals so we can continue to treat patients with other ailments”.

According to researchers, studies suggest that Covid-19 monoclonal antibody therapy reduces hospitalization by 71% and reduces death by 70% in high-risk Covid patients. The doctor explains that is the reason behind offering the treatment. It is not designed to give unvaccinated people an alternative.

In June, Health Canada issued an Interim Order authorization for the combination of monoclonal antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab (REGEN-COV, the therapy used in the clinic) to treat mild to moderate Covid-19 infection in high-risk patients.

This type of therapy could be a game changer in easing the burden on the healthcare system. Research suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to develop severe infection and die from Covid-19. However, vaccination may have a limited effect on those most vulnerable, such as seniors and immunocompromised individuals.

It is this group of patients, including organ transplant recipients and those receiving chemotherapy treatment who are eligible for the antibody therapy, even if they are fully vaccinated.

With the recent passing of former US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, due to Covid-19 complications despite being fully vaccinated, the importance of this type of research and therapy is all that more relevant. It shows that SJHH is on the cutting edge of improving health outcomes for individuals in the community. It is unclear why other hospitals do not offer this potential life-saving treatment.

P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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