Hook, Line and Infection: A Guide to Culturing Parasites, Establishing Infections and Assessing Immune Responses in the Three-Spined Stickleback

Alexander Stewart, Joseph Jackson, Iain Barber, Christophe Eizaguirre, Rachel Paterson, Pieter van West, Chris Williams, Joanne Cable*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)


The three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) is a model organism with an extremely well-characterized ecology, evolutionary history, behavioural repertoire and parasitology that is coupled with published genomic data. These small temperate zone fish therefore provide an ideal experimental system to study common diseases of coldwater fish, including those of aquacultural importance. However, detailed information on the culture of stickleback parasites, the establishment and maintenance of infections and the quantification of host responses is scattered between primary and grey literature resources, some of which is not readily accessible. Our aim is to lay out a framework of techniques based on our experience to inform new and established laboratories about culture techniques and recent advances in the field. Here, essential knowledge on the biology, capture and laboratory maintenance of sticklebacks, and their commonly studied parasites is drawn together, highlighting recent advances in our understanding of the associated immune responses. In compiling this guide on the maintenance of sticklebacks and a range of common, taxonomically diverse parasites in the laboratory, we aim to engage a broader interdisciplinary community to consider this highly tractable model when addressing pressing questions in evolution, infection and aquaculture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-109
Number of pages71
JournalAdvances in Parasitology
Early online date9 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017



  • Culture
  • Gasterosteus aculeatus
  • Immunology
  • Infection
  • Parasitology
  • Stickleback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology

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