This paper critically reviews the reported data regarding the transmission of Helicobacter pylori. The mode of transmission remains poorly understood; no single transmission pathway has been clearly identified. Laboratory studies have experienced difficulty in isolating this organism from material other than gastric tissue. The problematic detection of this bacterium has presented obstacles to pinpointing portals of entry and exit and to implicating or ruling out environmental reservoirs. It is shown additionally that knowledge of H. pylori transmission is limited due to lack of solid epidemiological evidence from population-based analyses that adequately consider confounding. Reported observations in general support a person-to-person mode of transmission that occurs most frequently early in life; H. pylori is consistently linked to conditions associated with residential crowding in childhood. Laboratory studies have yielded evidence in favour of both faecal-oral and oral-oral pathways. However, a role for either waterborne or zoonotic transmission has not been ruled out. The failure of investigations to single out a mode of transmission for H. pylori signals the possibility of multiple transmission pathways.