While Greg Mirams does not have a cure for Covid-19, his work with animals is drawing attention from those in the human health business.

The son of a farmer, Mirams is the founder and managing director of the company Techion. He has led the development of a world-first online diagnostic platform for the livestock industry.

Mirams believes lessons from animal health can be applied to support human disease management.

"We can look live on our platform and see what disease is occurring where and in what corner of the world, we can geo-map that, we can analyse that data, we can actually start to understand what triggers disease ... all those types of big data analysis - we can do that in animal systems but we don't have that capability in human systems - it's quite astounding" Mirams told The Country's Jamie Mackay.

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Although Techion does not work with viruses, its point of care (POC) platform FECPAKG2, is being trialled for human health applications.

While Mackay's suggestion of "ear-tagging people like cattle" was not an option, "point of care instant tests" could be a valuable tool in the fight against Covid-19, Mirams said.

"If you could deploy point of care [tests] and they could be very easily tested and very accurately tested, then we can actually manage the movement of this disease and we can get on top of it - just as we do with animals."

The use of similar technology and techniques across human and animal health, known as "One Health" has the potential to revolutionise health delivery.

From an epidemiological perspective, diseases behave in similar ways in animals and humans, so it makes sense for the tools and approach to be similar.

Mirams trained at Lincoln University and has over 20 years' experience in developing disease management technology.

He is globally networked in the disease management field and was a co-author on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation technical product profile for designing a platform for detecting human parasites.

The lessons sheep farming can teach human health

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"Sheep farming systems provide a unique and valuable insight into disease behaviours that can provide lessons and tools for human health" Mirams said in a statement.

A typical sheep farm is a monoculture (only sheep living together), and included various ages groups. They are also densely populated and genetically similar.

Techion founder and managing director Greg Mirams. Photo / Rowena Duncum
Techion founder and managing director Greg Mirams. Photo / Rowena Duncum

As a result, disease management can at times be highly challenging and if the farmer gets it wrong, the animal welfare and commercial implications are significant, Mirams said.

"Sheep health and performance is constantly impacted by changing weather, feed and management conditions which periodically create immunity stress on animals, making them highly susceptible to disease. As a result, sheep farmers with their veterinarians and advisors, have become highly tuned and generally successful in managing a range of sheep diseases."

As well as this, sheep farmers also understood the value and role of quarantine and isolation practices to prevent the importation and management of diseases onto their farms such as foot rot, salmonella and drench resistance - to name a few.

Now, widespread drug resistance, combined with social and consumer pressures are driving farmers to innovate and implement new disease management practices.

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As an online technology, Techion provided veterinary, scientific and other industries with valuable data to support timely alerts and information to help farmers stay well in front of the disease curve.

Whether this approach could be transitioned and used as a "One Health" technology to assist in human disease management was currently being explored in developing countries, with researchers deploying Techion's FECPAKG2 system.