1. The activities of enzymes degrading human colonic mucin were examined in faecal specimens from healthy subjects and patients with inflammatory bowel disease. 2. The activity of sialidase was measured using a new physiological substrate related to mucus glycoproteins. In addition, acylneuraminate pyruvate-lyase ( N -acetylneuraminate lyase; EC 220.127.116.11.) and a novel O -acetylsialic acid esterase (sialate O -acetylesterase; EC 18.104.22.168) were detected. 3. The O -acetylsialic acid esterase activity was readily detectable in partially purified fractions after Sephadex G-100 chromatography. 4. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease showed significant increases in acylneuraminate pyruvate-lyase and proteinase activity but sialidase activity did not differ from normal. The activity of these enzymes in neutrophils could not account for the differences observed.