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Sarasota Memorial tests new antibody cocktail designed to potentially stop the spread of COVID-19

The study may soon be expanded to people outside the hospital.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Sarasota Memorial Hospital has joined a multi-national trial to test a new dual-action antibody treatment researchers hope could reduce the severity of or even stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

The trial is being led locally by Manuel Gordillo, MD, medical director of Sarasota Memorial’s infection prevention and control efforts.

On Thursday, hospital staff began administering Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ experimental treatment (REGN-COV2) to coronavirus patients who met the criteria for the study. Currently, the trial is just open to patients in the hospital. But, it could expand to non-hospitalized patients with milder symptoms as early as next week.

“We’re very excited about this trial, which involves the first antiviral antibody cocktail specifically designed to attack a critical part of the coronavirus, the spike protein that attaches to human cells,” Dr. Gordillo explained in a news release. “In early laboratory tests, it completely obliterated the coronavirus at relatively low concentrations.”

SMH is one of three Florida hospitals and 150 research sites in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and Chile that is participating in a second wave of trials that follow positive results from a Phase 1 safety trial. A separate trial to gauge the antibody cocktail’s ability to prevent infections in people who are closely exposed to infected people will soon begin.

RELATED: Why experts say COVID-19 death rate doesn't give full picture of current situation

“As hospitalizations increase, we thankfully have a greater understanding of COVID-19 and more potential treatment options than at the start of the pandemic,” Sarasota Memorial CEO David Verinder said in a statement.

Earlier this year, SMH was part of a nationwide study to evaluate the antiviral drug Remdesivir. Researchers say it showed promising results. That trial has since ended, and the drug is in short supply.

Sarasota Memorial also took part in a clinical trial to judge the effectiveness of convalescent plasma. The goal was to use plasma donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat people currently in the hospital. Doctors say that also showed encouraging results.

"To date, SMH has given the plasma to 36 patients but is now facing a critical shortage," the hospital wrote in a statement.

Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 is encouraged to contact Suncoast Blood Centers to see if they qualify to donate plasma. It can be reached at 941-993-8119 or by emailing covid19@suncoastblood.org.

RELATED: What counts as a COVID-19 death? Is the virus becoming less deadly? We answer your common questions.

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