Legionella-like isolates, strains W03-356(T), W03-357 and W03-359, from three independent water samples from the river Elbe, Germany, were analysed by using a polyphasic approach. Morphological and biochemical characterization revealed that they were Gram-negative, aerobic, non-spore-forming bacilli with a cut glass colony appearance that grew only on L-cysteine-supplemented buffered charcoal yeast extract agar. Phylogenetic analysis based on sequence comparisons of the 16S rRNA, macrophage infectivity potentiator (mip), gyrase subunit A (gyrA), ribosomal polymerase B (rpoB) and RNase P (rnpB) genes confirmed that the three isolates were distinct from recognized species of the genus Legionella. Phenotypic characterization of strain W03-356(T) based on fatty acid profiles confirmed that it was closely related to Legionella rubrilucens ATCC 35304(T) and Legionella pneumophila ATCC 33152(T), but distinct from other species of the genus Legionella. Serotyping of the isolates showed that they were distinct from all recognized species of the genus Legionella. Strains W03-356(T), W03-357 and W03-359 are thus considered to represent a novel species of the genus Legionella, for which the name Legionella dresdenensis sp. nov. is proposed. The type strain is W03-356(T) (=DSM 19488(T)=NCTC 13409(T)).