INTRODUCTION: The emergence of antibiotic-resistant and -tolerant bacteria is a major threat to human health. Although efforts for drug discovery are ongoing, conventional bacteria-centered screening strategies have thus far failed to yield new classes of effective antibiotics. Therefore, new paradigms for discovering novel antibiotics are of critical importance. Caenorhabditis elegans, a model organism used for in vivo, offers a promising solution for identification of anti-infective compounds. Areas covered: This review examines the advantages of C. elegans-based high-throughput screening over conventional, bacteria-centered in vitro screens. It discusses major anti-infective compounds identified from large-scale C. elegans-based screens and presents the first clinically-approved drugs, then known bioactive compounds, and finally novel small molecules. Expert opinion: There are clear advantages of using a C. elegans-infection based screening method. A C. elegans-based screen produces an enriched pool of non-toxic, efficacious, potential anti-infectives, covering: conventional antimicrobial agents, immunomodulators, and anti-virulence agents. Although C. elegans-based screens do not denote the mode of action of hit compounds, this can be elucidated in secondary studies by comparing the results to target-based screens, or conducting subsequent target-based screens, including the genetic knock-down of host or bacterial genes.