The viable counts of Salmonella typhimurium on nutrient agar (NA) decreased upon the addition of either the essential oil of thyme or its constituent thymol, especially under anaerobic conditions. Antagonistic effects of thymol against Staphylococcus aureus were also greater under anaerobic conditions. In contrast to the phenolic constituents of the oil, thymol and carvacrol, the chemically related terpenes p-cymene and y-terpinene had no antagonistic effects against Salm. typhimurium.

The addition of Desferal to NA counteracted the antibacterial effects of both thyme oil and thymol. No support was obtained, however, for a possible role of iron in the oxygen-related antibacterial action of the thyme oil and thymol or for the observed effect of Desferal. In the presence of thymol, the viable counts of Salm. typhimurium obtained on a minimal medium (MM) were lower than those obtained on NA. Addition of bovine serum albumin (BSA) neutralized the antibacterial action of thymol. It is suggested that the effects of BSA or Desferal are due to their ability to bind phenolic compounds through their amino and hydroxylamine groups, respectively, thus preventing complexation reactions between the oil phenolic constituents and bacterial membrane proteins. This hypothesis is supported by the marked decrease in the viable counts of Salm. typhimurium caused by either thyme oil or thymol when the pH of the medium was changed from 6.5 to 5.5 or the concentration of Tween 80 in the medium was reduced.