Detection of pathogens (Legionella species) and indicator bacteria (coliform bacteria) was achieved by multiplex (simultaneous) PCR amplification of diagnostic gene sequences and by hybridization to immobilized poly-dT-tailed capture probes using a dot- or slot-blot approach. Complex manipulations of primer concentrations and staggered additions of primers were required in order to achieve equal amplification of multiple genes. Multiplex PCR amplification of two different Legionella genes, one specific for L. pneumophila (mip) and the other for the genus Legionella (5S rRNA), was achieved by staggered amplification. Multiplex PCR amplification using differing amounts of primers specific for lacZ and lamB genes permitted the detection of coliform bacteria and those associated with human faecal contamination, including the indicator bacterial species E. coli and enteric pathogens Salmonella and Shigella. Hybridization of biotin-labelled amplified DNA, in which the biotin was incorporated during PCR amplification from biotinylated-dUTP, to immobilized 400-dT-tailed capture probes permitted specific and sensitive detection of target gene sequences. The sensitivity of colorimetric detection achieved by PCR amplification of target DNA was at a level equivalent to 1-2 bacterial cells, which is the same level of sensitivity obtained with radioactive detection. The simultaneous amplification of several genes and hybridization to immobilized capture probes with colorimetric detection is an effective, efficient and rapid detection method for various human bacterial pathogens.