Helicobacter pylori NCTC 11637 produces a water-insoluble biofilm when grown under defined conditions with a high carbon:nitrogen ratio in continuous culture and in 10% strength Brucella broth supplemented with 3 g l−1 glucose. Biofilm accumulated at the air/liquid interface of the culture. Light microscopy of frozen sections of the biofilm material showed few bacterial cells in the mass of the biofilm. The material stained with periodic acid Schiff’s reagent. Fucose, glucose, galactose, and glycero-manno-heptose, N-acetylglucosamine and N-acetylmuramic acid were identified in partially purified and in crude material, using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. The sugar composition strongly indicates the presence of a polysaccharide as a component of the biofilm material. Antibodies (IgG) to partially purified material were found in both sero-positive and sero-negative individuals. Treatment of the biofilm material with periodic acid reduced or abolished immunoreactivity. Treatment with 5 mol l−1 urea at 100 °C and with phenol did not remove antigenic recognition by patient sera. The production of a water-insoluble biofilm by H. pylori may be important in enhancing resistance to host defence factors and antibiotics, and in microenvironmental pH homeostasis facilitating the growth and survival of H. pylori in vivo.