Helicobacter pylori infecting strains may include colony subtypes with different cytotoxin-associated gene ( cag) genotypes. We sought to determine whether the cag heterogeneity of infecting strains is related to the clinical outcome of infection. Gastric biopsies for culture and histologic study were taken from 19 patients infected with cagA-positive strains (6 with duodenal ulcer, 8 with atrophic gastritis, and 5 with nonatrophic gastritis). For each biopsy, DNA was extracted from 10 single colonies and from a sweep of colonies. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for cagA and cagE (both located in the right half of cag) and virB11 (located in the left half of cag) was performed. Random amplified polymorphic DNA PCR (RAPD-PCR) and sequencing of glmM PCR product were performed to verify strain identity of colonies with different cag genotypes. In all patients, PCR from sweeps were positive for cagA, showing that all specimens contained cagA-positive H. pylori subtypes. In 11 patients, PCR products from all colonies were positive for cagA, cagE, and virB11, but in 8 patients, PCR products from varying numbers of colonies were negative for 1 or more cag genes. RAPD-PCR and sequencing of glmM PCR product confirmed the strain identities of colonies with different cag genotypes. We detected cag deletions in 6 of 8, 2 of 5, and 0 of 6 patients with atrophic gastritis, nonatrophic gastritis, and duodenal ulcer, respectively ( P = .02). In conclusion, changes in cag genotype in single colony isolates from subjects infected with cagA-positive H. pylori strains are more common in atrophic than in nonatrophic gastritis or duodenal ulcer. These findings are consistent with host-induced (acid secretion?) adaptive changes in cag genotype during infection.