The extracellular slime produced by Staphylococcus epidermidis has been shown to interfere with several human neutrophil functions in vitro, such as chemotaxis, degranulation and phagocytosis. Slime production has been suggested as a useful marker for clinically significant infections with coagulase-negative Staphylococcus. Since the main role of macrophages in defense mechanisms is phagocytosis, the effect of slime on the phagocytic activity of macrophages was investigated. The phagocytic activity of murine peritoneal macrophages treated with slime in vitro decreased in a dose-dependent fashion. A similar decrease was also observed in macrophages isolated from mice that had previously received intraperitoneal injection of slime. To investigate whether interferon also plays a role in this process, mice were treated with interferon or an interferon inducer, polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (poly I:C), together with slime before macrophage isolation. The slime-suppressed phagocytic activity of macrophages was partially relieved by both agents, and the recovery effect of poly I:C in slime-suppressed phagocytosis of macrophages in vivo might be attributed to the increased interferon level in peritoneal fluid and sera. However, when slime was given to poly I:C-pretreated mice, the phagocytic activity remained suppressed. Thus, it appears that slime is able to suppress the phagocytic activity of macrophages regardless of the state of macrophage activation by poly I:C. The results suggest that the inhibition of phagocytosis by S. epidermidis slime may be independent from the activation of interferon.