We investigated the presence of Campylobacter pylori colonization of the gastric mucosa and of histologic evidence of gastritis in a prospective study of 71 consecutive children undergoing upper gastrointestinal tract endoscopy and gastric biopsies because of gastrointestinal symptoms. Two tissue samples from the gastric antrum were obtained from 67 of the 71 children (mean age [+/- SD], 11.4 +/- 3.8 years). One sample was evaluated for evidence of gastritis and stained with silver to detect organisms morphologically resembling campylobacter. The second sample was cultured for C. pylori, and a portion was used to perform a urease-screening test for the presence of C. pylori. Antral gastritis was diagnosed histologically in 18 of 67 patients. C. pylori was identified by both culture and silver staining on the antral mucosa in 7 of 10 patients with unexplained gastritis (primary gastritis) but in none of 8 patients with gastritis associated with an identifiable underlying cause (secondary gastritis). C. pylori was not identified in any of the 49 cases with normal histologic features. The urease-screening test was positive in only three of six patients with a positive culture for C. pylori. Duodenal ulcers were diagnosed by endoscopy in five patients. Each of the five had C. pylori on the antral mucosa, but organisms were not identified on the duodenal mucosa. We conclude that the presence of C. pylori on the antral mucosa is specifically associated with primary antral gastritis and may also be associated with primary duodenal ulceration.