Poly D,L-lactic acid (PLA) and its copolymers with glycolide PLGA 90:10 and 70:30 were polymerized under various conditions to yield polymers in the molecular weight range 12 000-40 000 daltons, as determined by gel permeation chromatography. Vancomycin hydrochloride was the hydrophilic drug of choice for the treatment of methicillin resistant Staphyloccoccal infections. It was microencapsulated in the synthesized polymers using water-oil-water (w/o/w) double emulsion and solvent evaporation. The influence of microcapsule preparation medium on product properties was investigated. An increase in polymer-to-drug ratio from 1:1 to 3:1 caused an increase in the encapsulation efficiency (i.e. from 44-97% with PLGA). An increase in the emulsifier (PVA) molecular weight from 14-72 kD caused an increase in encapsulation efficiency and microcapsule size. The in vitro release of vancomycin from microcapsules in phosphate buffer saline (pH 7.4) was found to be dependent on molecular weight and copolymer type. The kinetic behaviour was controlled by both diffusion and degradation. Sterilization with Co-60 (2.5 Mrad) also affected the degradation rate and release profiles. Degradation of microcapsules could be seen by scanning electron microscopy, by the increase in the release rate from PLA and by the decrease in the Tg values of microcapsules. In vitro bactericidal effects of the microcapsule formulations on S. aureus were determined with a special diffusion cell after the preparations had been sterilized, and were found to have bactericidal effects lasting for 4 days.