The use of rifampin as an adjunct in biofilm-associated infections is based on the ability to penetrate into biofilms and a presumed activity against dormant bacteria. Yet, its efficacy remains contradictory, and rifampin-resistant strains frequently emerge during therapy. Therefore, the efficacy against rifampin-susceptible and isogenic rifampin-resistant methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) strains was evaluated. Biofilms were generated under static conditions using MSSA with various genetic backgrounds. Oxacillin alone or with rifampin at various concentrations was subsequently added, and after 24 h biomass and viable cell counts were determined. Upon rifampin addition, interstrain variations in viable count change, ranging from a tendency toward antagonism to synergy, were observed among all strains tested, irrespective of the genetic background of the strain. Similar variations were observed in changes in biomass. The decrease in viable count upon rifampin addition was negatively correlated to formation of large amounts of biomass, since strains embedded by more biomass showed a diminished reduction in viable count. Rifampin (1 mu g/ml) as adjunct to oxacillin achieved greater reductions in biomass produced by most rifampin-susceptible isolates, ranging from 17 to 54%, compared to 4% for oxacillin alone. In contrast, rifampin had no additional value in reduction of biomass of isogenic rifampin-resistant mutants. At subinhibitory concentrations of rifampin (0.008 mu g/ml), none of the strains tested yielded an extra reduction in biomass that was >= 40%. In conclusion, the effects of rifampin as adjunct on biomass and viable count were unpredictable, and the use of rifampin against biofilm containing rifampin-resistant strains seems unwarranted.