This systematic review assesses the evidence for an association between Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) and Crohn's disease. We analysed 28 case-control studies comparing MAP in patients with Crohn's disease with individuals free of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or patients with ulcerative colitis. Compared with individuals free of IBD, the pooled odds ratio (OR) from studies using PCR in tissue samples was 7.01 (95% CI 3.95-12.4) and was 1.72 (1.02-2.90) in studies using ELISA in serum. ORs were similar for comparisons with ulcerative colitis patients (PCR, 4.13 [1.57-10.9]; ELISA, 1.88 [1.26-2.81]). The association of MAP with Crohn's disease seems to be specific, but its role in the aetiology of Crohn's disease remains to be defined.