MUC1 belongs to the family of cell surface (cs-) mucins. Experimental evidence indicates that its presence reduces in vivo influenza viral infection severity. However, the mechanisms by which MUC1 influences viral dynamics and the host immune response are not yet well understood, limiting our ability to predict the efficacy of potential treatments that target MUC1. To address this limitation, we use available in vivo kinetic data for both virus and macrophage populations in wildtype and MUC1 knockout mice. We apply two mathematical models of within-host influenza dynamics to this data. The models differ in how they categorise the mechanisms of viral control. Both models provide evidence that MUC1 reduces the susceptibility of epithelial cells to influenza virus and regulates macrophage recruitment. Furthermore, we predict and compare some key infection-related quantities between the two mice groups. We find that MUC1 significantly reduces the basic reproduction number of viral replication as well as the number of cumulative macrophages but has little impact on the cumulative viral load. Our analyses suggest that the viral replication rate in the early stages of infection influences the kinetics of the host immune response, with consequences for infection outcomes, such as severity. We also show that MUC1 plays a strong anti-inflammatory role in the regulation of the host immune response. This study improves our understanding of the dynamic role of MUC1 against influenza infection and may support the development of novel antiviral treatments and immunomodulators that target MUC1.
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