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What's the difference between COVID-19 antibodies and monoclonal antibodies?

blood drawn for COVID-19 antibody testing
Posted at 3:41 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 22:32:51-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The coronavirus pandemic has brought on a slew of new words and terminology that many of us are still trying to digest and grasp their meanings.


These days you probably have heard the terms COVID-19 antibodies and monoclonal antibodies. But what do they mean?


The Centers for Disease Control defines antibodies as "proteins created by your immune system that help you fight off infections."

Antibodies are made after a person has been infected or has been vaccinated against an infection, like COVID-19.

Health experts say antibodies can protect a person from getting infected again with the virus, however, it is unclear how long this protection lasts.

This has been a key point of discussion among doctors on when and if the population will need a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to fight the virus.

MORE: Extra COVID vaccine OK'd for those with weak immune systems

CDC, Centers for Disease Control
This Nov. 19, 2013 file photo shows a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention logo at the agency's federal headquarters in Atlanta.

The CDC emphasizes that antibody tests should generally not be used to diagnose COVID-19. They said it can take one to three weeks after the infection for your body to make antibodies.

Officials say that the vaccines, which are our best tool against the virus, work by teaching your body to produce antibodies to fight infection against COVID-19.

The CDC says antibody testing is not currently recommended to determine if you are immune to COVID-19 after getting the vaccine.

The CDC's interim guidelines for COVID-19 antibody testing offer more information on how antibody testing should be used and interpreted.

Monoclonal Antibodies

After President Donald Trump contracted COVID-19 last year, it was revealed that one of the treatments his doctors gave him was monoclonal antibodies.

Two drugs called bamlanivimab and etesevimab received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in February for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19.

In the months that followed, access to these experimental treatments has become more accessible to the general public.

The FDA defines monoclonal antibodies as "laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system's ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses."

It works by injecting artificial proteins intravenously to neutralize the illness until the person's own antibodies build-up to fight the virus.

Palm Beach County restaurant owner Derek McCray was diagnosed with the coronavirus last year and said a monoclonal antibody infusion "kind of brought me back to life."

Derek McCray shares his experience of taking monoclonal antibody infusion
Derek McCray shares his experience of taking a monoclonal antibody infusion following his bout with COVID-19.

These treatments received emergency use approval from the FDA and are generally for people over 65 or with chronic medical conditions, even if they've been vaccinated and became infected with the coronavirus.

The FDA also issued an emergency use authorization in May for a monoclonal antibody therapy called sotrovimab for adults and children as young as 12 years old.

The FDA said sotrovimab specifically targets the spike protein and is designed to block the virus' attachment and entry into human cells. However, it is not authorized for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or require oxygen therapy.

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surging this summer, Gov. Ron DeSantis said this week that the state is deploying rapid response mobile units that will deliver monoclonal antibody treatments to those in need.

Health experts have said that the monoclonal antibody treatments generally work best soon after the person is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Since these treatments are still considered experimental, their safety and effectiveness continue to be evaluated. That is why all health experts continue to push for the population to get the vaccine, which will reduce the chances of having to be hospitalized with the virus.

Click here to find out information on where monoclonal antibody treatments are offered locally or call 1-877-332-6585.

Click here for a national map that shows locations that have received shipments of monoclonal antibody therapeutics.