The human gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori is usually acquired during childhood and, in the absence of treatment, chronic infection persists through most of the host's life. However, the frequency and importance of H. pylori transmission between adults is underestimated. Here we sequenced the complete genomes of H. pylori strains that were transmitted between spouses and analysed the genomic changes. Similar to H. pylori from chronic infection, a significantly high proportion of the determined 31 SNPs and 10 recombinant DNA fragments affected genes of the hop family of outer membrane proteins, some of which are known to be adhesins. In addition, changes in a fucosyltransferase gene modified the LPS component of the bacterial cell surface, suggesting strong diversifying selection. In contrast, virulence factor genes were not affected by the genomic changes. We propose a model of the genomic changes that are associated with the transmission and adaptation of H. pylori to a new human host. © 2013 Linz et al.