[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Staphylococcus aureus vaccines based on bacterins surrounded by slime, surface polysaccharides coupled to protein carriers and polysaccharides embedded in liposomes administered together with non-biofilm bacterins confer protection against mastitis. However, it remains unknown whether protective antibodies are directed to slime-associated known exopolysaccharides and could be produced in the absence of bacterin immunizations. Here, a sheep mastitis vaccination study was carried out using bacterins, crude bacterial extracts or a purified exopolysaccharide from biofilm bacteria delivered in different vehicles. This polysaccharide reacted specifically with antibodies to poly-N-acetyl-beta-1,6-glucosamine (PNAG) and not with antibodies to other capsular antigens or bacterial components. Following intra-mammary challenge with biofilm-producing bacteria, antibody production against the polysaccharide, milk bacterial counts and mastitis lesions were determined. Bacterins from strong biofilm-producing bacteria triggered the highest production of antibodies to PNAG and conferred the highest protection against infection and mastitis, compared with weak biofilm-producing bacteria and non-cellular inocula. Thus, bacterins from strong biofilm bacteria, rather than purified polysaccharide, are proposed as a cost-efficient vaccination against S. aureus ruminant mastitis.