Helicobacter pylori chronically infects nearlyhalf the world’s population, yet most of those infected remain asymptomatic throughout their lifetime. The outcome of infection—peptic ulcer disease or gastric cancer versus asymptomatic colonization—is a product of host genetics, environmental influences, and differences in bacterial virulence factors. Here, we review the current understanding of the cag pathogenicity island (cagPAI), the vacuolating cytotoxin (VacA), and a large family of outer membrane proteins (OMPs), which are among the best understood H. pylori virulence determinants that contribute to disease. Each of these virulence factors is characterized by allelic and phenotypic diversity that is apparent within and across individuals, as well as over time, and modulates inflammation. From the bacterial perspective, inflammation is probably a necessary evil because it promotes nutrient acquisition, but at the cost of reduction in bacterial load and therefore decreases the chance of transmission to a new host. The general picture that emerges is one of a chronic bacterial infection that is dependent on both inducing and carefully regulating the host inflammatory response. A better understanding of these regulatory mechanisms may have implications for the control of chronic inflammatory diseases that are increasingly common causes of human morbidity and mortality.