The presence of gastric spirochaetal organisms was first documented over a century ago. Though repeatedly reported in the medical literature, it was felt that these spiral bacteria were merely contaminants and the reports were generally ignored by the medical community. On 22 October 1982, at a meeting of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, successful culture of these 'Campylobacterlike organisms' from gastric biopsy specimens was reported for the first time. Moreover, it was shown that their presence was associated with gastritis and, possibly, with peptic ulceration. The subsequent discovery of the pivotal role of Helicobacter pylori in a wide range of conditions has revolutionised our understanding of gastroduodenal diseases. Improvements in diagnostic and therapeutic options, combined with the gradual acceptance of the aetiological role of an infective agent in peptic disease, have led to a remarkable change in the management of gastroduodenal conditions in the past decade.