Critical environments, including water systems in recreational settings, represent an important source of Legionella pneumophila infection in humans. In order to assess the potential risk for legionellosis, we analyzed Legionella contamination of water distribution systems in 36 recreational facilities equipped with swimming pools. One hundred and sixty water samples were analyzed from shower heads or taps located in locker rooms or in bathrooms. By culture method and polymerase chain reaction, 41/160 samples were positive for Legionella from 12/36 recreational centers. Hotels (57.1%) and sports centers (41.2%) were the most contaminated. L. pneumophila serotypes 2–14 (25/41) were more frequently found than serotype 1 (10/41). Samples at temperature ≥30 °C were more frequently positive than samples at temperature <30 °C (n = 39 vs n = 2, p < 0.00001). The presence of L. pneumophila was investigated by comparison with heterotrophic plate count (HPC), an indicator of water quality. The presence of L. pneumophila was associated more frequently with high and intermediate HPC load at 37 °C, therefore should be considered a potential source when HPC at 37 °C is >10 CFU/mL. Maintenance, good hygiene practices, interventions on the hydraulic system and regular controls must be implemented to minimize exposure to L. pneumophila infection risk.

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