HASTINGS – Mary Lanning Healthcare has made the latest in groundbreaking COVID-19 treatments available to those patients who qualify and is now offering antibody testing.
With physician referrals, two antibody treatments are being given to patients through the MLH Outpatient Infusion Center. Physicians can also order COVID-19 antibody testing for patients through the MLH Laboratory.
MLH officials said it is important to note that the treatment and testing are only available after a physician orders them, and there are requirements for eligibility. Patients need to be seen by a primary care physician, who will then order treatment or testing. Treatments need to be given as soon as possible in the virus course when symptoms are still mild. Antibody treatments are mainly used in patients at high risk of severe COVID-19. Some of the conditions that put patients at high risk include diabetes, chronic kidney disease or a high body mass index.
The two antibody products — bamlanivimab and casirivimab/imdevimab — recently received FDA approval for emergency use in the treatment of COVID-19. MLH officials said they have seen some success in helping mild to moderate COVID-19 patients with these treatments, which has been available at MLH for about two weeks.
The antibody treatments must be administered through infusion. The monoclonal antibodies are specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, and designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells. Initial studies have shown recipients of these antibodies are at decreased risk of advancing to severe disease and hospitalization.
MLH is offering four antibody infusion appointments per day Monday through Friday and two per day on holidays and weekends in a dedicated room. The infusion takes about one hour to administer. Because patients need to be observed for at least an additional hour after infusion, patients should plan on spending up to three hours at MLH. The type of product infused will be selected based on availability.
COVID-19 antibody testing
The MLH Laboratory this week was able to add SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing to its menu of options.
715 N. St. Joseph Avenue | Hastings, NE 68901 | 402-463-4521 | www.marylanning.org
The testing also requires a physician order so patients must see a primary care physician, who feels the testing is needed. Antibody tests check the blood for antibodies that show the patient has had a past COVID-19 infection. Depending on when someone was infected and the timing of the test, it may not find antibodies with a current COVID-19 infection.
Therefore, Terri Brown, MLH Laboratory Director, said antibody tests should not be used to diagnose COVID-19. A viral test is needed for COVID-19 diagnosis.
If the patient tests positive, Brown said, it means that the patient has antibodies from COVID-19 or a related virus in the same family. It is not known for certain if a patient with antibodies is protected from getting infection again, or how long such protection might last.
“You should continue to protect yourself and others even after a positive antibody test,” Brown said. “If you test negative for the antibody, you still could have COVID-19. If you have symptoms and meet other criteria for testing, you need a viral test.”
TestNebraska at MLH
MLH has been the site of TestNebraska viral testing for several weeks, with drive-through service available on the east side of the MLH main building. Those who wish to be tested can sign up online at www.testnebraska.com.
Right now, MLH has seven dedicated Emergency Management Lab Assistants who operate the drive-through testing from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. Brown said MLH can see up to 110 patients daily. The average number of tests collected each day is 85.
Overall, she said, patients receive Test Nebraska results in fewer than 48 hours. In November, the average time was significantly lower than previous months, around 31 hours.
MLH is the only TestNebraska collection site in central Nebraska operating five days a week, serving nearly 400 patients each week.
Brown said the MLH Laboratory has four options for viral diagnostic testing, and serves numerous clinics, nursing homes, employers and first responders while continuing rapid testing for inpatient, outpatient and emergency hospital departments. About 150 COVID-19 tests are being performed each week in the MLH lab.
MLH’s COVID-19 team continues to work with South Heartland District Health Department, the state of Nebraska and the city of Hastings as COVID-19 numbers and directed health measures change in the region. MLH officials have met in the early stages of planning for distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
The state of Nebraska will distribute vaccine to hospitals with priority doses for healthcare workers who deal directly with COVID-19 patients. MLH will release details of its distribution plan as more information becomes available.