Mucosal pathogens use diverse and highly specific molecular mechanisms to activate mucosal inflammation. It may even be argued that their virulence depends on the inflammatory response that they induce. Some bacteria target epithelial cells and trigger them to produce inflammatory mediators but others cross the mucosa and activate macrophages or dendritic cells. Although systemic release of inflammatory mediators causes many symptoms and signs of infection, local chemokine production leads to the recruitment of inflammatory cells and lymphocytes that participate directly in the clearance of bacteria from mucosal sites. In this way, mucosal inflammation is a two-edged sword responsible for disease associated tissue destruction and crucial for the antimicrobial defence. Understanding of these pathways should create tools to enhance the defence and interfere with disease.