Biomaterials are increasingly used for the restoration of human function, but can become infected as a result of peri- or early post-operative bacterial contamination, although biomaterial-associated infections (BAIs) can also initiate at any time from hematogenous spreading of bacteria from an infection elsewhere in the body. Infecting bacteria in BAIs not only seek shelter in their own protective biofilm matrix, but also hide in surrounding tissue. This study compares staphylococcal persistence on and around a degradable and non-degradable surgical mesh through the use of longitudinal bioluminescence imaging in a murine model, including histological evaluation of surrounding tissue after sacrifice. Surgical meshes were first contaminated with bioluminescent Staphylococcus aureus Xen29 and subsequently subcutaneously implanted in mice. Bioluminescent staphylococci persisted on and around non-degradable meshes during the 28-day course of the study, whereas bioluminescence returned to control levels and bacteria disappeared from surrounding tissues once a degradable mesh had fully dissolved. Thus the application of degradable biomaterials yields major advantages with respect to the prevention of BAIs, as dissolution of the implant not only is associated with elimination of the protective biofilm mode of growth of the infecting organisms, but also allows the immune system to clear the surrounding tissue from infecting organisms. (C) 2012 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.