An experimental rodent model was used to demonstrate the viability of the coccoid form of Helicobacter pylori. Concentrated suspensions were prepared for the two different morphologies: at 2 days incubation for the bacillary forms and at 20 days incubation for the "dormant" forms. The strains used for incubation were two fresh isolates from humans with duodenal ulceration, and two collection strains. Five hundred microliters of culture (OD550 = 5 Mc Farland) of Helicobacter pylori with bacillary (2-5 x 10(9) CFU/ml) and coccoid (0 CFU/ml) morphology were inoculated intragastrically in BALB/c mice. The gastric mucosa of the mice was colonized by Helicobacter pylori with the administration of fresh bacillary and coccoid cultures and not with the established cultures. Helicobacter pylori was isolated at 1 week after inoculation with the administration of fresh bacillary cultures, while fresh coccoid Helicobacter pylori was recovered in mice stomachs after 2 weeks of inoculation. After colonization, histopathologic changes occurred after 1 month from inoculation; all colonized mice showed a systemic antibody response to Helicobacter pylori. These results support the thesis of the viability of coccoid Helicobacter pylori non-culturable in vitro and confirm that concentrated bacterial suspensions are able to colonize and to produce gastric alterations in this suitable animal model.