AIM: To compare the histological characteristics of Helicobacter pylori positive chronic gastritis in patients with and without associated duodenitis. METHODS: Gastric mucosal biopsy specimens were obtained from patients undergoing endoscopy for dyspepsia. Severity of gastritis and density of H pylori infection were graded according to the Sydney system. RESULTS: Of the 69 patients studied, 15 had normal histology, 22 had chronic gastritis only (77.3% H pylori positive), 21 had duodenitis (90.5% H pylori positive), and 11 had other diagnoses. In the H pylori positive patients, the median gastritis score was higher in the duodenitis group (6, range 3-9) than in the chronic gastritis only group (5, range 2-8), because of greater neutrophil activity scores in patients with duodenitis (median score 2 v 1). There were no differences in the density of H pylori infection, inflammation, atrophy, or intestinal metaplasia between patients with chronic gastritis only and those with duodenitis. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that H pylori positive patients with duodenitis have a more severe form of gastritis than those without associated duodenal inflammation. This is because of increased neutrophil activity, which seems to be independent of the density of H pylori infection.