Ewch i’r prif gynnwys
Joanne Cable

Yr Athro Joanne Cable

Pennaeth Organeddau ac Is-adran yr Amgylchedd

Ysgol y Biowyddorau

+44 29208 76022
Adeilad Syr Martin Evans, Ystafell C5.16, Rhodfa'r Amgueddfa, Caerdydd, CF10 3AX
Adeilad Syr Martin Evans, Ystafell C5.16, Rhodfa'r Amgueddfa, Caerdydd, CF10 3AX
Sylwebydd y cyfryngau
Ar gael fel goruchwyliwr ôl-raddedig


As Chair of Parasitology, I work on host-parasite dynamics and the ecosystem impacts of invasive species. Much of this research (in silico, in vitro and in vivo) is based on aquatic systems, particularly fish parasites, which affect host behaviour, growth and performance, but my group also works on water-borne human pathogens and zoonotic infections. Identifying the factors that drive parasite transmission and spread of invasive species has direct applications for animal and human health, sustainable food sources and the pet trade.

Key research methodologies:

  • Experimental parasitology, cell culture and imaging.
  • Host genetic diversity, behaviour and parasite resistance.
  • Parasite molecular taxonomy and epidemiology.

For more details of my research see www.cripescardiff.co.uk

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We work on several host-parasite systems, combining experimental approaches in the field and lab with microscopy and molecular biology, to assess the factors controlling disease transmission. Much of our current research is focused on fish pathogens, utilising model systems: Gyrodactylus species infecting guppies or sticklebacks. For further details see www.cripescardiff.co.uk

Host factors influencing parasite transmission

Genetic diversity of hosts significantly impacts on parasite resistance (e.g. Ellison et al. 2011); therefore we have invested considerable time in documenting the diversity of wild guppy populations (Barson et al. 2009; Willing et al. 2010) in relation to their parasite fauna (reviewed by Cable 2011). Specifically, we know that host immunity influences all aspects of host-parasite dynamics (Cable & van Oosterhout 2007a). In vertebrates, the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) plays a crucial role in the immune defence against parasites. Low variation of MHC in both captive and natural fish populations has been associated with increased disease susceptibility (Blais et al. 2007). In guppies increased gyrodactylid burdens have been shown to reduce survival of individuals (van Oosterhout et al. 2007; Faria et al. 2010) and this selection may alter MHC allele frequencies both spatially and temporally. MHC also influences host mating preferences, so we are currently investigating how parasitism, and the interaction between visual and olfaction responses in fish affects mate choice. In a new collaboration with Dr Joe Jackson, we are investigating how other aspects of the fish's immune response are influenced by temperature in the presence of parasites.

Phenotypic variation in hosts is also important for disease dynamics. Host behavioural traits have been shown to affect transmission of infectious diseases in lab (e.g. Richards et al. 2010; Johnson et al. 2011) and field studies (e.g. Croft et al. 2011). We are currently taking this a stage further by investigating disease transmission in artificial flumes. In collaboration with the School of Engineering at Cardiff, we are assessing the trade-offs between fish swimming behaviour in complex environments vs. the risk of infection. In addition, a Marie Curie Fellow in the lab is investigating how fish temperament impacts on the transfer of directly transmitted pathogens.

Parasite traits influencing transmission

Most life history traits of parasites will impact on their transmission potential (Viney and Cable 2011); for Gyrodactylus species, an overriding factor is their unusual reproductive mode. These ectoparasitic worms are more akin to microparasites (such as viruses, bacteria and protozoans) rather than typical helminth macroparasites. Adult worms contain several generations of embryos boxed one inside another (like "Russian Dolls"). Each parasite gives birth to a fully grown worm which attaches to the host alongside its parent and this can lead to exponential population growth. The reproductive biology of Gyrodactylus is further complicated as different modes of reproduction (asexual, parthenogenesis and sexual) can all be involved in the life cycle. Schelkle et al. (2012a) have recently shown the importance of hybridization in mixed infections of gyrodactylids using novel microsatellite markers (Faria et al. 2010), which demonstrates, for the first time the occurrence of sexual recombination and hybrid vigour in monogeneans. Transmission between hosts is also influenced by host availability and the degree of parasite specialization (King and Cable 2007; King et al. 2008, 2009).

Environmental factors driving transmission

Since 2003, we have been conducting fieldwork in Trinidad and Tobago on the interactions between guppies and their parasites (Cable 2011). In extreme environments, such as the hydrocarbon rich conditions of the Pitch Lake, Trinidad, we have investigated how guppies avoid some gyrodactylid infections (Schelkle et al. 2012b). We have also shown how flooding can negatively impact upon the most heavily infected hosts (van Oosterhout et al. 2007). This is being tested further in the Cardiff labs using artificial flumes to precisely assess how water flow rates and turbulence might influence transmission of fish parasites. However, perhaps the most important factor affecting epidemics in managed host populations is the application of anti-parasitic treatments (e.g. Millet et al. 2010; Schelkle et al. 2009, 2010). We are particularly interested in finding alternative chemotherapeutics against the diplomonad protozoan, Spironucleus vortens (see review by Williams et al. 2012).

In terrestrial hosts, we are studying the effects of climate and habitat variables on parasite distributions of (i) rodents, collaboration with Dr Sarah Perkins, (ii) otters, joint study with Dr Liz Chadwick of the Cardiff University Otter Project, and (iii) primates, collaborations with Prof Mike Bruford and Dr Benoît Goossens.

Interplay between biotic and abiotic factors driving host-parasite dynamics

A range of empirical studies from Dr Cable's lab has illustrated the importance of host, parasite and environmental factors influencing host-parasite dynamics (e.g. Cable & van Oosterhout 2007b). These data have been used to develop an agent based model for gyrodactylids (van Oosterhout et al. 2008), which is currently being expanded in collaboration with colleagues at McGill University to assess the interplay between parasite infrapopulation growth and host immunity. However, all these advances in understanding the ecology and evolution of these pathogens has only become possible in the last decade due to advances in taxonomy of this specious family (e.g. Harris et al. 2008; Paladini et al. 2009, 2010; Schelkle et al. 2011; Shinn et al. 2010). These ectoparasitic monogenean worms are ubiquitous on teleost fish. Over 400 species have been described, but it is estimated that this number may exceed 20,000. With intensifying aquacultural practices, the unique colonization abilities and pathogenicity of gyrodactylids has resulted in major disease epidemics. One species alone, Gyrodactylus salaris, cost the Norwegian Salmon Industry >500 million € in the first 25 years since its introduction from the Baltic.

In collaboration with the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales, we are assessing the impact of native and invasive pathogens on both native (e.g. European eels) and invasive fish species (pumpkinseed; Hockley et al. 2011). For eels, this involves looking at multi-species interactions between Pseudodactylogyrus spp. and Anguillicoloides crassus. For otters, we are focussing on the potentially invasive digenean species parasites Pseudamphistomum truncatum and Metorchis albidus, but also trying to identify their intermediate hosts in cyprinid fishes and snails using molecular methods. Finally, we have recently started working on the interactions between native and invasive crayfish species, and their branchiobdellid symbionts.

Current members of the Research Group

  • Dr Anna Paziewska-Harris - Cryptosporidium biology.
  • Rebekah Weatherhead (Aberystwyth University) - Temperature driven immunogentic responses of Nile tilapia to parasitic infection.
  • Emily MatthewsSaprolegnia parasitica landscape genomics.
  • Tom Pennance - Genetic diversity of intermediate hosts of schistosomes.
  • Numair Masud - Fish welfare.
  • Daniela Rosado (University of Porto) - Fish microbiomes.
  • Alice Jones - Multi-stressors impacting freshwater ecosystems.
  • Elissavet Arapi - Behaviour of Gyrodactylus species.
  • Kathryn Whittey - Coral Reef Biology.
  • Rhi Hunt - Push-Pull Control Strategies.
  • Bozo Lugonja - Cryptosporidium Biology.
  • Clement Twumasi - Modelling host-parasite interactions.
  • Neil Cook - Ecology meets Technology.
  • Scott MacAulay - Oomycete infections of fish.
  • Anya Tober - Schistosome wildlife parasites.
  • Simon Baumgärtner (Bangor University) - Fish diets.

We host a range of international visitors and, each summer, train Erasmus, Nuffield and IAESTE (The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) students; currently MSc students Kate Davidson and Rhidian Thomas.

We are always happy to discuss possibilities for PhD projects, postdoctoral work and collaborations. Possible funding routes include applying for fellowships, e.g. EU Marie Curie or Royal Society fellowships, or grant applications with you as a named postdoc.

Former members of the Research Group

  • Dr Rachel Paterson - Multi-stressors in Aquatic Environments.
  • Dr Gabrielle Archard - Personality, stress and parasitism
  • Dr Nicola Barson - Population genetics and behavioural ecology of guppies
  • Dr Stephen Casey - Genetic diversity of Leucochloridium spp.
  • Drs Stephen Cummings and Domino Joyce - Guppy MHC and parasite diversity
  • Dr Patricia J. Faria - Experimental infections and population genetics of gyrodactylid parasites
  • Dr Amy Ellison - AquaWales: Impact of fish diseases on Aquaculture
  • Dr Mireille Johnson - Morphology and population genetics of gyrodactylid parasites
  • Dr Marie Le Goff - Population genetics of gyrodactylid parasites
  • Dr Alberto Maceda-Veiga - The interaction between parasites and nitrates on fish hosts
  • Dr Simon Shayler - Culturing Ichthyophthirius multifilis
  • Dr Raquel Xavier - Molecular ecology of fish pathogens, particularly the spill over of parasites between farmed and wild fish


In addition to our work with Cardiff Infection Biologists, geneticists and freshwater biologists, we collaborate closely with other schools via the Cardiff Water Research Institute and other GW4 researchers via the Water Security Alliance. External collaborators include evolutionary biologists and applied scientists:


  • Environment Agency
  • European Commission
  • Fisheries Society of the British Isles (FSBI)
  • Leverhulme Trust
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Norwegian Research Council (NRC)
  • Waltham Foundation

    We are also grateful to Aquarian and Rolf C. Hagen for the provision of aquarium equipment and consumables.


Undergraduate teaching:

  • Tropical Marine Ecology Field Course, module leader
  • BI1003 Organisms and Environment
  • BI2133 Ecology and Conservation - Part A
  • BI2134 Ecology and Conservation - Part B
  • BI3001 Final Year Research Projects
  • BI3155 Infection Biology and Epidemiology

Postgraduate teaching:

  • MSc, MRES and IM Research Projects
  • IAESTE and ERASMUS student Research Projects/Internships


It was during my first degree in Biological Sciences at Westfield College, University of London, that I became interested in parasitology. My Ph.D. research at Queen Mary College, University of London, focused on the ecological adaptations of monogenean parasites. After two post-doctoral positions at the MRC in Nottingham (with Prof. Karen Steel) and the University of Bristol (with Prof. Richard Tinsley), I moved to Cardiff in 1999 to work on a range of projects concerned with host-parasite interactions, particularly monogenean reproduction and, more recently, population genetics. I have held three Research Fellowships, including a current NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) Advanced Fellowship, and in 2008 I was promoted to Reader.

I serve on the council of the British Society for Parasitology, act as an ad-hoc reviewer for 30 journals and various funding bodies, teach ecological parasitology to undergraduates at all levels and have examined eight PhD/MSc candidates.

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