Helicobacter pylori is present in 40-60% of the population and approximately 10-20% of these infected individuals suffer from a H. pylori associated disease such as peptic ulcer disease or gastric cancer. This article reviews the potential bacterial determinants responsible for and markers predictive of both the acquisition of H. pylori infection and subsequent clinical outcome; i.e., asymptomatic infection or disease. The acquisition of H. pylori infection depends on exposure (hence the increased risk in lower socioeconomic groups and developing nations) to viable bacteria with at least a functional urease gene in a susceptible host. Once infection occurs, bacterial virulence factors, including the vacuolating cytotoxin, and genes of the cag pathogenicity island, as well as nonbacterial factors may determine disease outcome. Future research is being directed at discovering other bacterial virulence factors responsible for the different clinical outcomes of H. pylori infection. This will be greatly enhanced by the recent release of the complete genome sequence of H. pylori. The determination of the relative importance of each of these recognized and other as yet unrecognized factors responsible for disease outcome will assist in the appropriate targeting of patients in the treatment of H. pylori infection.