The Helicobacter pylori SS1 mouse model was used to characterize the development of resistance in H. pylori after treatment with metronidazole monotherapy and to examine the effect of prior exposure to metronidazole on the efficacy of a metronidazole-containing eradication regimen. Mice colonized with the metronidazole-sensitive H. priori SS1 strain were treated for 7 days with either peptone trypsin broth or the mouse equivalent of 400 mg of metronidazole once a day or three times per day (TID). In a separate experiment, H. pylori-infected mice were administered either peptone trypsin broth or the mouse equivalent of 400 mg of metronidazole TID for 7 days, followed 1 month later by either peptone trypsin broth or the mouse equivalent of 20 mg of omeprazole, 250 mg of clarithromycin, and 400 mg of metronidazole twice a day for 7 days. At least 1 month after the completion of treatment, the mice were sacrificed and their stomachs were cultured for H. pylori. The susceptibilities of isolates to metronidazole were assessed by agar dilution determination of the MICs. Mixed populations of metronidazole- resistant and -sensitive strains were isolated from 70% of mice treated with 400 mg of metronidazole TID. The ratio of resistant to sensitive strains was 1:100, and the MICs for the resistant strains varied from 8 to 64 μg/ml. In the second experiment, H. pylori was eradicated from 70% of mice treated with eradication therapy alone, compared to 25% of mice pretreated with metronidazole (P < 0.01). Mice still infected after treatment with metronidazole and eradication therapy contained mixed populations of metronidazole-resistant and -sensitive isolates in a ratio of 1:25. These results demonstrate that H. pylori readily acquires resistance to metronidazole in vivo and that prior exposure of the organism to metronidazole is associated with failure of eradication therapy. H. pylori- infected mice provide a suitable model for the study of resistance mechanisms in H. pylori and will be useful in determining optimal regimens for the eradication of resistant strains.