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VCU Health Tests Preventive Treatment for COVID-19

Man in mask handling test tubes
The antibody drug was developed at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. (Photo:  Regeneron Pharmaceuticals)

VCU Health started a clinical trial this week of a potential treatment to prevent COVID-19 from spreading among household members.

Dr. Michael Donnenberg, a clinician at VCU health, says the spread of COVID-19 within families can be hard to control: "Household contacts of patients with COVID-19 infection have about a 10 to 15% chance of contracting the disease themselves."

Man in lab coat
Dr. Michael Donnenberg is a professor in VCU's infectious diseases division. (Photo: Kevin Morley/VCU Health)

Donnenberg is leading a clinical trial at VCU Health that uses COVID-19 antibodies he believes could provide almost immediate protection. "The purpose of the study is to test whether antibodies that are engineered in the lab can protect people against getting infected," Donnenberg said.

Administering the antibodies directly by injection could give the body the components it needs to be immune, but the approach comes with its own drawbacks. "If it works, it would be effective very quickly much faster than a vaccine would, but it wouldn’t last nearly as long as a vaccine can," Donnenberg said.

Early results have been promising. Donneberg said, “I am very optimistic about it because it works so well in cell culture and it works so well in animals, so far.”  The trials have just begun in Richmond, one of several sites across the country testing the new treatment. Volunteers will be recruited from among household members of COVID patients at VCU Health.