Papaya (Carica papaya) seeds were extracted in an aqueous buffer or in organic solvents, fractionated by chromatography on silica and aliquots tested for anthelmintic activity by viability assays using Caenorhabditis elegans. For all preparations and fractions tested, anthelmintic activity and benzyl isothiocyanate content correlated positively. Aqueous extracts prepared from heat-treated seeds had no anthelmintic activity or benzyl isothiocyanate content although both appeared when these extracts were incubated with a myrosinase-containing fraction prepared from papaya seeds. A 10 h incubation of crude seed extracts at room temperature led to a decrease in anthelmintic activity and fractionated samples showed a lower benzyl isothiocyanate content relative to non-incubated controls. Benzyl thiocyanate, benzyl cyanide, and benzonitrile were not detected in any preparations and cyanogenic glucosides. which were present, could not account for the anthelmintic activity detected. Thus, our results are best explained if benzyl isothiocyanate is the predominant or sole anthelmintic agent in papaya seed extracts regardless of how seeds are extracted.