The efficacy of a muramidase-released protein (MRP) and extracellular factor (EF) vaccine in preventing infection and disease in pigs challenged either with a homologous or a heterologous Streptococcus suis serotype 2 strain (MRP+EF+) was compared with the efficacy of a vaccine containing formalin-killed bacterin of S suis serotype 2 (MRP+EF+). The enhancement of the immune response by different adjuvants (a water-inoil emulsion [wo] and an aluminium hydroxide-based adjuvant [AHJ) and their side effects were also studied. The MRP and EF were purified by affinity chromatography. Pigs were vaccinated twice at three weeks and six weeks of age and challenged intravenously with virulent S suis serotype 2 strains (MRP+EF+) at eight weeks of age. At challenge, the pigs vaccinated with MRP+EF/WO had high anti-MRP and anti-EF titres and were protected as effectively as pigs vaccinated with wo-formulated vaccines with bacterin. Eight of the nine pigs survived the challenge and almost no clinical signs of disease were observed. The titres obtained with the MRP+EF/AH vaccine were low and only two of the five pigs were protected. Pigs vaccinated with either MRP or EF were less well protected; three of the four pigs died after challenge but the clinical signs of disease were significantly less severe than those observed in the placebo-vaccinated pigs. The protective capacity of the bacterin/AH vaccine was very low, and the mortality among these pigs was as high as in the placebovaccinated pigs (80 per cent). Postmortem histological examination revealed meningitis, polyserositis and arthritis in the clinically affected pigs. The results demonstrate that a subunit vaccine containing both MRP and EF, formulated with the wo adjuvant, protected pigs against challenge with virulent S suis type 2 strains.