In our study we examined the early complement components in patients with bacterial vaginosis (BV), vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) and in healthy controls. The levels of C1q, mannose-binding lectin (MBL) and C3 were measured by ELISA in the cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) from gynaecological patients and controls. No significant differences were observed in the levels of these proteins in the three study groups. Immunofluorescence analysis of the clue cells and Candida hyphae from BV and VVC patients for surface-bound complement components showed the presence of C3, while C1q was undetectable. MBL was revealed on clue cells but not on Candida. Binding of MBL to Candida, grown or cytocentrifuged from the CVL of VVC patients, was found to be pH dependent and occurred between pH 4·5 and pH 5·5. In conclusion, we demonstrated that MBL and C3 present in the vaginal cavity act as recognition molecules for infectious agents that colonize the cervicovaginal mucosa. Our finding that MBL, but not C1q, binds to bacteria and fungi in vagina suggests that the lectin and classical pathways of complement activation may play a different role in immune defence in the female genital tract.