This contribution is concerned with population balance modeling of virus–host cell interactions during vaccine production. Replication of human influenza A virus in cultures of adherent Madin–Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells is considered as a model system. The progress of infection can be characterized by the intracellular amount of viral nucleoprotein (NP) which is measured via flow cytometry. This allows the differentiation of the host cell population and gives rise to a distributed modeling approach. For this purpose a degree of fluorescence is introduced as an internal coordinate which is linearly linked to the intracellular amount of NP. Experimental results for different human influenza A subtypes reveal characteristic dynamic phenomena of the cell distribution like transient multimodality and reversal of propagation direction. The presented population balance model provides a reasonable explanation for these dynamic phenomena by the explicit consideration of different states of infection of individual cells. Kinetic parameters are determined from experimental data. To translate the emerging infinite dimensional parameter estimation problem to a finite dimension the parameters are assumed to depend linearly on the internal coordinate. As a result, the model is able to reproduce all characteristic dynamic phenomena of the considered process for the two examined virus strains and allows deeper insight into the underlying kinetic processes. Thus, the model is an important contribution to the understanding of the intracellular virus replication and virus spreading in cell cultures and can serve as a stepping stone for optimization in vaccine production. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2013; 110: 2252–2266. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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