BackgroundNematodes represent important pathogens of humans and farmed animals and cause significant health and economic impacts. The control of nematodes is primarily carried out by applying a limited number of anthelmintic compounds, for which there is now widespread resistance being reported. There is a current unmet need to develop novel control measures including the identification and characterisation of natural pathogens of nematodes.ResultsNematode killing bacilli were isolated from a rotten fruit in association with wild free-living nematodes. These bacteria belong to the Chryseobacterium genus (golden bacteria) and represent a new species named Chryseobacterium nematophagum. These bacilli are oxidase-positive, flexirubin-pigmented, gram-negative rods that exhibit gelatinase activity. Caenorhabditis elegans are attracted to and eat these bacteria. Within 3 h of ingestion, however, the bacilli have degraded the anterior pharyngeal chitinous lining and entered the body cavity, ultimately killing the host. Within 24 h, the internal contents of the worms are digested followed by the final digestion of the remaining cuticle over a 2–3-day period. These bacteria will also infect and kill bacterivorous free-living (L1-L3) stages of all tested parasitic nematodes including the important veterinary Trichostrongylids such as Haemonchus contortus and Ostertagia ostertagi. The bacteria exhibit potent collagen-digesting properties, and genome sequencing has identified novel metalloprotease, collagenase and chitinase enzymes representing potential virulence factors.ConclusionsChryseobacterium nematophagum is a newly discovered pathogen of nematodes that rapidly kills environmental stages of a wide range of key nematode parasites. These bacilli exhibit a unique invasion process, entering the body via the anterior pharynx through the specific degradation of extracellular matrices. This bacterial pathogen represents a prospective biological control agent for important nematode parasites.