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This article is part of the supplement: Mathematical Modelling of Influenza

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A review of mathematical models of influenza A infections within a host or cell culture: lessons learned and challenges ahead

Catherine AA Beauchemin1* and Andreas Handel2

  • * Corresponding author: Catherine AA Beauchemin

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physics, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, M5B 2K3, Canada

2 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11(Suppl 1):S7  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-S1-S7

Published: 25 February 2011


Most mathematical models used to study the dynamics of influenza A have thus far focused on the between-host population level, with the aim to inform public health decisions regarding issues such as drug and social distancing intervention strategies, antiviral stockpiling or vaccine distribution. Here, we investigate mathematical modeling of influenza infection spread at a different scale; namely that occurring within an individual host or a cell culture. We review the models that have been developed in the last decades and discuss their contributions to our understanding of the dynamics of influenza infections. We review kinetic parameters (e.g., viral clearance rate, lifespan of infected cells) and values obtained through fitting mathematical models, and contrast them with values obtained directly from experiments. We explore the symbiotic role of mathematical models and experimental assays in improving our quantitative understanding of influenza infection dynamics. We also discuss the challenges in developing better, more comprehensive models for the course of influenza infections within a host or cell culture. Finally, we explain the contributions of such modeling efforts to important public health issues, and suggest future modeling studies that can help to address additional questions relevant to public health.