The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), Crohn's disease (CD), and ulcerative colitis (UC), are complex multifactorial traits involving both environmental and genetic factors. Mannan-binding lectin (MBL) plays an important role in non-specific immunity and complement activation. Point mutations in codons 52, 54 and 57 of exon 1 of the MBL gene are associated with decreased MBL plasma concentrations and increased susceptibility to various infectious diseases. If these MBL mutations could lead to susceptibility to putative IBD-etiological microbial agents, or could temper the complement-mediated mucosal damage in IBD, MBL could function as the link between certain microbial, immunological and genetic factors in IBD. In this study, we investigated the presence of the codon 52, 54 and 57 mutations of the MBL gene in 431 unrelated IBD patients, 112 affected and 141 unaffected first-degree relatives, and 308 healthy control individuals. In the group of sporadic IBD patients (n = 340), the frequency of the investigated MBL variants was significantly lower in UC patients when compared with CD patients (P = 0.01) and with controls (P = 0.02). These results suggest that MBL mutations which decrease the formation of functional MBL could protect against the clinical development of sporadic UC, but not of CD. This could be explained by the differential T-helper response in both diseases.