Six nosocomial. cases of Legionella pneumophila occurred over a two-week period, with one further case being diagnosed retrospectively after 30 days. Strains isolated from the hospital water system were clonally related to a single sputum isolate. A sero-epidemio logical investigation into legionella exposure amongst staff and inpatients was undertaken at the eight-year-old Inonu University Medical Centre in Turkey, which has 600 beds and central air conditioning. There is no disinfection programme for the hospital water system. A total of 500 serum samples (400 hospital staff and 100 inpatients) were screened for antibody to L. pneumophila by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Seroreactive cases were confirmed by a four-fold antibody rise in ELISA, a high indirect immunofluorescent assay (IFA) antibody titre or a positive urinary antigen test. ELISA showed that 24 (6%) of the 400 hospital staff and seven (7%) of the 100 inpatients had antibody titres higher than the cut-off value. ELISA-seroreactive cases were followed for two to four weeks. Of these subjects, seven (three patients and four staff) showed a four-fold rise in antibody titre by ELISA, six (three patients and three staff) had a high IFA titre, three patients with pneumonia had a positive urinary antigen test, and one of these patients also had a positive sputum culture. In addition, 22 water distribution systems were screened for the presence of L. pneumophila by culture. L. pneumophila was isolated from 15 sites. Pulsed-field get electrophoresis typing indicated that all strains isolated from water systems were identical and clonally related to the strain isolated from sputum. Superheating and flushing of water systems were undertaken with Legionella being re-isolated from four sites. Repeated superheating and flushing eliminated legionella completely. This study demonstrated that rapid detection of L. pneumophila and adequate superheating and flushing of water systems are effective for elimination and reduction of spread of this organism. (c) 2005 The Hospital Infection Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.