Scientists in the US have announced the first effective treatment against coronavirus - an experimental drug that can speed the recovery of Covid-19 patients.

While not a vaccine against Covid-19, the findings mark a major medical advance in the fight against the respiratory disease which has killed more than 220,000 people worldwide and infected more than three million.

Early results of an international trial have revealed that the anti-inflammatory, anti-viral drug remdesivir, is a potential breakthrough.

It is not a vaccine or a cure, but can aid with patients' recovery.

A major study run by the National Institutes of Health in the US found remdesivir shortened the time it takes for Covid-19 patients to recover by four days on average — from 15 days to 11.

The word came - significantly - from Dr Anthony Fauci, the respected leader of America's preeminent infectious disease institute.

“It’s highly significant,' said the usually cautious doctor.

“What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.

“This will be the standard of care.”

Dr Fauci added there was a trend towards fewer deaths among those on the drug.

Dr Anthony Fauci said the remdesivir findings are 'highly significant'. Credit: AP

The US government said it is working to make the drug available to patients as quickly as possible.

Remdesivir was orginally developed by the bio-pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences as a treatment for Ebola, as that virus spread across parts of Africa.

Earlier this year, it was tested in China for Covid-19, but those results were judged disappointing and inconclusive, however, the US study suggests the drug may be beneficial.

Stocks surged around the world on the news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining more than 530 points on the day, or over 2%.

Still, word of the new drug came as the US government reported that American economic output is shrivelling in the biggest and fastest collapse since the Depression.

Economists in the US estimate one in six workers, or nearly 30 million people, have lost their jobs over the past six weeks.

Around 60,000 people have died with coronavirus in the US, the worst-hit country in the world.

Trials remain ongoing worldwide in a bid to find a vaccine, with the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford widely seen as leading the way in that race.

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