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The chapel next to the emergency room in Mosaic Medical Center - Maryville was converted into a location for infusions of monoclonal antibodies for patients with COVID-19, pictured here last month. MMC-M President Nate Blackford said the treatments have yielded positive results for patients.

MARYVILLE, Mo. — Over the past few months, an antibody infusion treatment available at Mosaic Medical Center - Maryville has shown positive results in heading off COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Infusion treatments with certain monoclonal antibodies — laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens like viruses — for high-risk patients with COVID-19 have been successful in treating the worst respiratory symptoms of the coronavirus, said MMC-M President Nate Blackford.

Near the end of November, the FDA authorized the emergency use of some monoclonal antibodies in patients 65 and older, or those with chronic conditions that weaken their immune system. Just after that, MMC-M received its first shipments and began treating patients in the ER. But quickly, Blackford said, the number of patients who would benefit from the treatment rose, and the hospital converted a chapel next to the ER into a makeshift infusion ward.

“This really is kind of a cutting edge technology, it’s a cutting edge drug therapy, and it’s not one that I think has been necessarily in the rural markets,” Blackford said. “This is typically something that you would see in a larger medical center, so we are very excited and proud that we’re able to bring this to our rural community.”

The treatment has resulted in “very, very minor side effects,” Blackford said, and can often result in a turnaround within 24 hours.

The antibodies are authorized for use in patients who have not yet been hospitalized because of their symptoms, but have tested positive for COVID-19.

“That’s when you want to do it, you want to do it prior to needing hospitalization; This isn’t something that’s recommended once you’re hospitalized,” Blackford said. “It’s actually intended as a drug therapy to keep you out of the hospital.”

A couple of months ago, the treatment faced its first major test during an outbreak inside a nursing home where “all but one or two of the nursing home residents had COVID.”

“And that is pretty alarming to us because that is often where COVID patients would struggle, is in that nursing home population,” Blackford said.

Working with the nursing home’s staff, eight or nine of the nursing home residents were given the monoclonal antibody infusions while the hospital prepared for a significant increase in patients from the outbreak.

“And if I remember correctly, I think in total, we ended up only having two … patients from that nursing home that ended up spending time in the hospital, the rest of them we were able to treat either with this or it resolved on (its) own. So we were very thankful to have this resource available.”