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Aims: The effect of thermal stresses on survival, injury and nisin sensitivity was investigated in Salmonella Enteritidis PT4, PT7 and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Methods and Results: Heating at 55°C, rapid chilling to 0·5°C or freezing at –20°C produced transient sensitivity to nisin. Cells were only sensitive if nisin was present during stress. Resistance recovered rapidly afterwards, though some cells displayed residual injury. Injury was assessed by SDS sensitivity, hydrophobicity changes, lipopolysaccharide release and NPN uptake. LPS release and hydrophobicity were not always associated with transient nisin sensitivity. Uptake of NPN correlated better but persisted longer after treatment.

Conclusions: Thermal shocks produce transient injury to the outer membrane, allowing nisin access. After treatment, the permeability barrier is rapidly restored by a process apparently involving reorganization rather than biosynthetic repair.

Significance and Impact of the Study: Inclusion of nisin during food treatments that impose sub-lethal stress on Gram negatives could increase process lethality, enhancing microbiological safety and stability.