The human immune system has developed an elaborate network of cascades for dealing with microbial intruders. Owing to its ability to rapidly recognize and eliminate microorganisms, the complement system is an essential and efficient component of this machinery. However, many pathogenic organisms have found ways to escape the attack of complement through a range of different mechanisms. Recent discoveries in this field have provided important insights into these processes on a molecular level. These vital developments could augment our knowledge of the pathology and treatment of infectious and inflammatory diseases.