Commonly studied nematode parasites have not proven amenable to simple genetic analyses and this has significantly reduced the available research options. We introduce here a nematode parasite of mammals, Parastrongyloides trichosuri, which has features uniquely suited for genetic analysis. This parasite has the capacity to undergo multiple reproductive cycles as a free-living worm and thereby amplify the numbers of its infective L3s in faeces. Culture conditions are presented that permit facile laboratory maintenance of this worm for >90 free-living life cycles (to date) without the need for re-entry into a permissive host. Even after long maintenance as a free-living worm, culture conditions can be manipulated to favour development of infective L3 worms, which remain able to successfully infect their marsupial hosts. The switch to infective L3 development is triggered by a secreted factor contained in culture medium conditioned by multiple generations of free-living worm culture. It is simple to perform single pair crosses with P. trichosuri to carry out Mendelian genetics in the laboratory and this has been done multiple times with sibling pairs to generate highly inbred lines. Lines of worms can readily be cryopreserved and recovered. Over 7000 expressed sequence tags have been produced from cDNAs at different life cycle stages and used to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms and microsatellites as genetic markers. Free-living worms live only a few days on average while the patency of parasitic infections can last for several months. Since we show this is not the result of re-infection, we conclude that parasitic worms have a lifespan capacity at least 20-30 times longer than their free-living counterparts. We discuss how it should be possible to exploit these unique features of P. trichosuri as a model for future studies that explore the genetic basis of longevity and parasitism.