Methods were developed for the detection of Legionella in environmental water sources, based upon the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and gene probes. All species of Legionella, including all 15 serogroups of L. pneumophila tested, were detected by PCR amplification of a 104 bp DNA sequence that codes for a region of 5S rRNA followed by radiolabelled oligoprobe hybridization to an internal region of the amplified DNA. Strains of L. pneumophila (all serogroups) were specifically detected based upon amplification of a portion of the coding region of the macrophage infectivity potentiator (mip) gene. Pseudomonas spp. that exhibit antigenic cross-reactivity in serological detection methods did not produce positive signals in the PCR-gene probe method using Southern blot analyses. Single cell, single gene Legionella detection was achieved with the PCR-gene probe methods.