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We consider a hierarchy of ordinary differential equation models that describe the within-host viral kinetics of influenza infections: the IR model explicitly accounts for an immune response to the virus, while the simpler, target-cell limited TEIV and TV models do not. We show that when the IR model is fitted to pooled experimental murine data of the viral load, fraction of dead cells, and immune response levels, its parameters values can be determined. However, if, as is common, only viral load data are available, we can estimate parameters of the TEIV and TV models but not the IR model. These results are substantiated by a structural and practical identifiability analysis. We then use the IR model to generate synthetic data representing infections in hosts whose immune responses differ. We fit the TV model to these synthetic datasets and show that it can reproduce the characteristic exponential increase and decay of viral load generated by the IR model. Furthermore, the values of the fitted parameters of the TV model can be mapped from the immune response parameters in the IR model. We conclude that, if only viral load data are available, a simple target-cell limited model can reproduce influenza infection dynamics and distinguish between hosts with differing immune responses.

Original publication




Journal article


J Theor Biol

Publication Date



Infectious disease, Mathematical modelling, Theoretical immunology, Viral dynamics, Within-host kinetics