Abstract Research is asking how H. pylori causes diseases, and also why the same bacteria produces different conditions in different persons. The process involves bacterial factors and the host's response. Some bacterial factors such as urease are produced by all strains of H. pylori. This enzyme may damage the gastric epithelium by practically releasing ammonia. Other bacterial factors such as vacuolating toxin are only produced by some strains, and these strains are more likely to cause ulcers or cancer. The host's response has been studied by physiologists, immunologists, and histologists, but the separation of systems is artificial. For example, physiologists find that H. pylori stops gastric D-cells from expressing somatostatin normally, which impairs reflex inhibition of acid secretion, but the D-cell malfunction is probably due to inflammatory factors. In H. pylori gastritis, the gastric epithelial cells behave like immunocytes and express class II molecules and cytokines such as interleukin-8. The patient's histological response to H. pylori is quite closely related to the disease outcome. Patients who respond by developing gastric atrophy are more likely to get gastric ulcers or stomach cancer, but patients whose gastric corpus remains healthy tend to secrete more acid and develop duodenal ulcers, particularly if they have gastric metaplasia in their duodenum. Studies of disease mechanisms provide a valuable insight into the development of these common diseases, and may enable us to identify at-risk groups who particularly merit eradication therapy.