President Trump received mostly the same treatment as anyone would get for COVID-19, except for one experimental drug and the speed of his care.


The claim: Antibody cocktail Trump received is made from fetal stem cells 

Since President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and hospitalization, health care professionals have voiced concerns regarding his broad medical regimen, which include steroid dexamethasone and Gilead’s remdesivir. One treatment in particular, an experimental antibody drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, is drawing criticism on social media. 

“So it turns out the monoclonal antibodies Trump is on are from fetal stem cells. So Trump is being treated/saved with dead babies,” reads a Twitter post shared on the Facebook group Dogs for Democracy.

The tweet goes on to call out Republicans, Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, and anti-abortion activists.  

A follow-up tweet containing a link to Regeneron’s official position statement on stem cell research is provided as evidence for the claim.  

While the Facebook post sharing the tweet has not received significant attention on the platform, it has gone viral on Twitter, gaining over 347,000 likes and 107,000 retweets; similar tweets have also gone viral, including one from Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif. 

USA TODAY has reached out to the administrators of the Dogs for Democracy Facebook group for further comment.

Fact check: Trump’s hospital records, weight have not been released

What is Regeneron’s antibody cocktail? 

When the human body is invaded by a foreign pathogen — be it a bacteria, virus, fungi or parasite — Y-shaped proteins called antibodies are formed. They circulate through the body to sequester and alert other immune chemicals and cells to destroy the pathogen, much like a search-and-destroy system. 

Antibodies form the basis of “adaptive” immunity because they are genetically engineered, in a sense, by the body to recognize certain pathogens. This genetic engineering occurs within white blood cells called B cells, which manufacture and display the proteins on the cell surface, by way of genes rearranging like a set of numbers rearranging to form different sequences or patterns.

Because this rearrangement is random, there is no telling what kind of specificity an antibody will exhibit or whether it will be biologically useful. Only if a B cell meets the right pathogen at the right time will it then activate and secrete its bespoke antibody. The activated B cell will also go on to clone itself through a process called clonal expansion, which helps mount an effective immune response by spawning vast quantities of antibody and memory B cells (B cells which will remember the encounter for any future run-ins) as well as activating other immune cells.  

Plasma cell producing antibodies, attacking coronavirus. (Photo: Floriana, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Regeneron’s experimental antibody “cocktail,” known as REGN-COV2, is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies (monoclonal referring to a specific B cell clone). These antibodies, REGN10933 and REGN10987, are engineered to lock on to SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein, preventing it from interacting with its target on the host cell surface, the ACE2 receptor.