Background: Cytokines play important roles in antiviral action. We examined whether polymorphisms of interleukin (IL)-12 receptor B1 ( IL-12RB1) affect the susceptibility to and outcome of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Methods: A case-control study was carried out in Chinese SARS patients and healthy controls. The genotypes of 4SNPs on IL-12 RB1 gene, +705A/G,+1158T/C, +1196G/C and +1664 C/T, were determined by PCR-RFLP. Haplotypes were estimated from the genotype data using the expectation-maximisation algorithm. Results: Comparison between patients and close contacts showed that individuals with the +1664 C/T (CT and TT) genotype had a 2.09-fold (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.90-7.16) and 2.34-fold (95% CI, 1.79-13.37) increased risk of developing SARS, respectively. For any of the other three polymorphisms, however, no significant difference can be detected in allele or genotype frequencies between patients and controls. Additionally, estimation of the frequencies of multiple-locus haplotypes revealed potential risk haplotypes (GCCT) for SARS infection. Conclusions: Our data indicate that genetic variants of IL12RB1confer genetic susceptibility to SARS infection, but not necessary associated with the progression of the disease in Chinese population.