COVID-19: UCLA doctor explains coronavirus antibody testing, plasma treatments

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Every day doctors, and nurses on the front lines of medicine put their own lives on the line to care for others. And those in primary care and pediatrics must also still treat their other patients.

Dr. Anu Seshadri, a UCLA Health primary care physician, joined ABC7 via Skype to provide some information about the coronavirus pandemic.

ABC7: What can you tell about antibody testing and what it is in relation to the coronavirus?

Seshadri: Right. So we’re still — I just want to preface this by saying we’re all in the research phase. We’re not using these tests as part of clinical treatment just yet. And if we are, it’s still part of a research that’s being conducted to see how effective it is. So, when it comes to antibodies in general it takes about a few days to even weeks for our own immune system to develop antibodies to a virus, such as COVID-19. Second of all, these antibody tests can be used to for further purposes. We want to look to see how long does it take for antibodies to develop, how long do the antibodies actually stay in your system and this information could be used to develop vaccines.

Now, in the future too this could also be used to track the disease. Where has it been and what are future hot spots? So that’s when it comes to antibody testing, currently. And then, there’s the antibodies that are involved with treatment measures, such as convalescent plasma. So you take blood from an individual that has had an infection and that has developed an immune response taking just the antibodies that are just within that plasma and then transfusing it into a patient that is severely sick. And the hope is that it will neutralize the virus, but also kick-start the immune system, but again more research needs to be done to seeing how effective this is and this is, you know, being done just based on a few case studies that were shown be used previously in the past.

ABC7: There’s a lot of information out with hydroxychloroquine, can you tell us if people should be buying this, having it at home and self-treating? Where do you stand on this?

Seshadri: I have, unfortunately I have a lot of patients that have auto immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus who really, really rely on hydroxychloroquine for reducing their number of flareups. I mean it’s been shown to reduce flareups by almost 50% and these patients are really suffering because they’re finding a hard time to actually get this, get this medication from pharmacies. And because of that – their pain and their flare-ups are actually increasing as were delaying getting their prescriptions to them in a timely manner. I know that pharmacies are trying to make an effort restricting who actually gets this medication and needing to get verification from their rheumatologist primary care physician with an actual diagnosis link to their prescription.

ABC7: So, this is very similar to what was happening with hoarding at the beginning, people using it for unnecessary reasons, to a degree, (but) people that need it, need it.

Seshadri: Yes, they really do. These patients really do, because otherwise they’re pretty debilitated. And this include rashes that can develop, extreme joint swelling to the point where they can’t mobilize their joints. Lupus patients – it can lead to kidney problems in the long run. So, these patients their lives really depend on this medication so I’m really requesting people to just hold off on buying this medication until the CDC and other resources that we have really does verify that this is an effective medication to use.

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