A mathematical model that describes the replication of influenza A virus in animal cells in large-scale microcarrier culture is presented. The virus is produced in a two-step process, which begins with the growth of adherent Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells. After several washing steps serum-free virus maintenance medium is added, and the cells are infected with equine influenza virus (A/Equi 2 (H3N8), Newmarket 1/93). A time-delayed model is considered that has three state variables: the number of uninfected cells, infected cells, and free virus particles. It is assumed that uninfected cells adsorb the virus added at the time of infection. The infection rate is proportional to the number of uninfected cells and free virions. Depending on multiplicity of infection (MOI), not necessarily all cells are infected by this first step leading to the production of free virions. Newly produced viruses can infect the remaining uninfected cells in a chain reaction. To follow the time course of virus replication, infected cells were stained with fluorescent antibodies. Quantitation of influenza viruses by a hemagglutination assay (HA) enabled the estimation of the total number of new virions produced, which is relevant for the production of inactivated influenza vaccines. It takes about 4–6 h before visibly infected cells can be identified on the microcarriers followed by a strong increase in HA titers after 15–16 h in the medium. Maximum virus yield Vmax was about 1 × 1010 virions/mL (2.4 log HA units/100 μL), which corresponds to a burst size ratio of about 18,755 virus particles produced per cell. The model tracks the time course of uninfected and infected cells as well as virus production. It suggests that small variations (<10%) in initial values and specific rates do not have a significant influence on Vmax. The main parameters relevant for the optimization of virus antigen yields are specific virus replication rate and specific cell death rate due to infection. Simulation studies indicate that a mathematical model that neglects the delay between virus infection and the release of new virions gives similar results with respect to overall virus dynamics compared with a time delayed model. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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