DHR Health launches new study aimed at preventing COVID-19

Dr. Sohail Rao, President and CEO of DHR Health, speaks during a press conference at the Edinburg Conference Center on Aug. 13, 2021, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

DHR Health has launched a new study this week aimed at preventing immuno-compromised individuals from developing COVID-19.

After treating COVID-positive patients with monoclonal antibodies, DHR Health Institute for Research & Development will now begin administering those antibodies to people who are COVID-negative but may have been in contact with someone who is COVID-positive.

People who have been fully vaccinated but are considered high-risk are still vulnerable to develop COVID-19 when exposed to the coronavirus, explained Dr. Sohail Rao, president & CEO of the research institute.

“They normally develop infection because the infection has got little to do with the vaccination, it’s the disease which actually the vaccination prevents,” Rao said. “So they get infected and then some of them, if they’re at high risk, they develop disease which actually in some cases incapacitates them for a brief period of time.”

Those at risk are Hispanic individuals, African-Americans, as well as those who are immuno-compromised such as the elderly or people with diabetes.

Individuals, vaccinated or not, who meet that criteria and may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 are encouraged to contact them immediately, Rao said.

“What we will do is that we will test you and make sure that you are COVID negative and, if you are, then we will bring you into a safe zone which we have created,” he said.

The safe zone within the research institute, called a “cold zone,” is away from DHR’s COVID units and away from the infusion center where COVID-positive patients are also being treated.

Once there, staff will infuse participants with a cocktail of two different antibodies — Casirivimab and Imdevimab — which are manufactured by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. That antibody treatment is already administered to COVID-positive patients with mild symptoms.

The idea, Rao said, is that the treatment will bind to the virus, if there is any virus acquired from exposure, and the antibody will then eliminate it.

“And that will therefore prevent the onset of disease which may then require further treatment so that is the whole concept of this particular study,” Rao said. “The primary goal of this is the prevention of COVID-19, the disease itself.”

Those who participate will receive a single infusion of the antibody treatment which will take about 45 minutes to an hour and then they will be monitored for another 30 minutes to an hour.

Staff will then follow up with them the day after the infusion and then again 48 hours after the infusion.

For more information on the study, individuals can call (956) 362-2357 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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